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Business and Economy

Veteran hiring through Maine program rebounds in 2021

Brent Brown
Robert F. Bukaty
Brent Brown, sergeant-at-arms of the American Legion Post 155, wears a face covering to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus while holding the American flag during a Veterans Day ceremony, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, in Naples, Maine.

A total of 217 veterans scored jobs through Maine's Hire-a-Vet Campaign last year, 72 more than the previous year.

Of the 217 new veteran hires in 2021, 42 were women, according to the campaign.

Leo Deon, co-coordinator for the Maine Hire-a-Vet Campaign, said it's a sign that momentum is picking up after the first year of the pandemic, when just 145 veterans found jobs through the program.

But hiring still hasn't quite recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Deon said the program helped place about 280 veterans before the pandemic.

"It could be the pandemic," he said. "It could be that Maine is an aging state. A lot of folks in Maine are above work age, and that includes a lot of the veterans within the state, so not everyone is actually looking for work. But to put your finger on any one causal factor, it's very hard to determine why numbers were down."

Average wages for veterans hired through the campaign have gone up. Veterans made an average of $24.12 an hour last year. Deon said that's a nearly $7 increase since the campaign began in 2015.

"Some individuals are making $17-18 dollars an hour, and there are other veterans out there in their new jobs that are making over $30-40 an hour."

A total of 166 employers participated in the Hire-a-Vet Campaign last year. General Dynamics/Bath Iron Works, Northern Light Health and the state of Maine are among those who hired the most veterans through the program.