High unemployment in Northern California has had a beneficial effect for military recruiters. According to recruiters in the area, candidate numbers have remained healthy as economic conditions have deteriorated.
In recent history obesity and poor education standards have made it difficult for the US Military to find suitable recruits. However, the decline in the economy has brought with it a new raft of potential candidates, keen to find something that suits their needs.
"Here in Northern California, Stockton and Modesto has some of the highest unemployment in the nation, making the military a more viable option," explains Rod Kise, spokesman for the U.S. Army's Recruiting Battalion – Sacramento, which covers Northern California, southern Oregon and parts of Nevada.
"When the economy dipped down we saw an increase of traffic in our office," agrees Christa D'Andrea, a spokeswoman at the Air Force Recruiting Service headquarters in San Antonio. "It's very competitive to join the Air Force right now."
With salaries starting at $1,491 a month, plus medical benefits and a monthly housing allowance, the temptation to join up has never been greater. That said, one result has been that recruits are older than was previously the case. Currently, more men and women in their mid-20s are signing up instead of the 17- to 24-year-olds that usually make up the bulk of new recruits.
"We are seeing more families – husbands and wives," Kise comments. For some the army has become the only realistic way of securing a reliable income on which to support a family. In other cases, the recent influx can be attributed to the high cost of college and an expanded GI Bill that helps veterans pay for college. In addition to this, some candidates are looking to the Air Force for technical training which will stand them in a better position to apply for work later on.