FORT KNOX, Kentucky -- The Army closed out fiscal year 2016 with the lowest level of Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Service members (UCX) program expenditures in 13 years at $172.8 million, according to the Department of Labor.

Fiscal year 2016 marks the first time UCX expenditures have dipped below the $200 million mark since 2003, when it closed out at $152 million. The decrease in unemployment compensation is an encouraging sign for transitioning Soldiers and veterans pursuing employment, education, and other civilian opportunities.

Army UCX expenditures peaked in 2011 at $515 million and have been decreasing ever since, due to a combination of economic factors and Army efforts to prepare Soldiers for the civilian sector.

"We are excited to see that more Army veterans are finding careers after they transition off of active duty service, and fewer are having to file for unemployment compensation," said retired Col. Walter Herd, Director of the Soldier for Life - Transition Assistance Program, Fort Knox, Kentucky.

According to Herd, successfully reintegration of Soldiers into the civilian world depends on a number of factors, including civilian industry awareness of veteran skill sets as well as local economic conditions.

In the past few years, the Army has launched efforts to assist Soldiers in the development of their civilian career skills during their transition. Among them is the remodeled Army transition program, the Soldier for Life - Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP).

SFL-TAP is a commander's program that requires leaders to take an active role in a Soldier's transition. The program encourages Soldiers to attend early and often, starting 18 months prior to transition and 24 months prior to retirement from active duty.

Participation in SFL-TAP is required for all Soldiers who have at least 180 days of continuous active duty service. The program teaches career skills like resume writing, financial planning, job application preparation, military skills translation and more.

"SFL-TAP works to provide opportunities to Soldiers who are looking to pursue an education, entrepreneurship, or a career," Herd said. "We provide Soldiers a wide variety of resources, counseling, classes, and skills programs to better prepare and connect them to the civilian sector."

The Army has partnered with the Department of Labor, Department of Veterans Affairs, Small Business Administration, and various Veteran Service Organizations to offer courses to transitioning Soldiers.

The Army also works with major employers across the country to educate companies on the value of hiring veterans and connect Soldiers to civilian opportunities.

"Industries have found that Soldiers are adaptable leaders and make great employees," said Col. Adam Rocke, Director of Soldier for Life in Crystal City, Virginia.