Contractors push back on hiring rules for vets, people with disabilities

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They twin rules, which have been in the works for years, are aimed at reducing unemployment among veterans and people with disabilities by giving them a leg up in hiring processes with contractors and subcontractors that work with the federal government. The new measures would implement stronger affirmative action standards for those companies.

The trade group denies that veterans and people with disabilities need the extra boost.

“As the data makes clear, veterans and the disabled are already extremely well represented in the construction industry,” said Stephen Sandherr, the organization’s chief executive officer, in a statement after the meeting. “These new rules offer a very costly fix for a problem that, according to the government’s own data, doesn’t appear to exist.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average unemployment rate among veterans last year was 7 percent, lower than the 8.1 percent national average.

However, those data account for all veterans; among the post-9/11 generation of veterans who joined the military after Sept. 11, 2001, the rate of unemployment in 2012 was 9.9 percent.

The trade group also points to Bureau of Labor Statistics data that show that people with disabilities are as likely to work in construction firms as people without disabilities.

Not only is there no problem to fix, the trade group claimed, new quotas would cost businesses more than $25,000 combined annually per office location, not the $1,033 that than the Labor Department predicted.

The White House received the rules from the Labor Department last week for a 90-day review.