Army: Strong Economy Hurts Recruiting

The U.S. economy is surging, with consumer confidence high and unemployment low. But there is one unintended consequence of the economic resurgence---it is hurting military recruiting. Last week, U.S. Army Secretary Mark Esper said they don't expect to meet their original recruiting goal for this year of 80,000, and have lowered it to 76,500. Esper specifically cited the improved economy and lower unemployment as factors in recruiting numbers, telling reporters "the strong economy does make it challenging."

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Bill McClain says down recruiting cycles during improved economic conditions are nothing new, but they do add to the already difficult job that military recruiters have. "These folks who are recruiters, my hat's really off to them," he says. "When I've had a chance to speak to them, I said if it wasn't for you, we wouldn't have an Army."

Gen. McClain tells KTRH that recruiting is an inexact science, regardless of how the economy is doing. "Normally (recruiters) have to make up to 5 to 6 visits to someone before they make a decision, and there's a lot of people they talk to that they realize are not going to be eligible," he says. And there are other non-economic factors in play, as well. "The potential recruiting pool is less because of those who can't pass physicals, and that sort of thing," says McClain.

Nevertheless, there are positive signs for the military as well. "One thing that is encouraging is that the number of those who re-enlist has increased, which helps a little bit on the recruiting goals they're trying to reach," says McClain.

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