The unemployment rate for veterans worsened slightly in January — especially for younger veterans — even as the national rate continued to improve after last year’s historic job market upheaval.
According to estimates released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the veterans unemployment rate rose from 5.3 percent in December to 5.5 percent in January. That was the second time in the last four months the figure has increased, even as other sectors of the U.S. economy show consistent signs of recovery.
Veterans from the recent wars saw their unemployment rate rise even higher, from 5.1 percent in December to 6.3 percent in January.
Economic experts have cautioned against relying too much on a single month’s employment data as an assessment for the country’s jobs situation, especially in the winter, when seasonal employment opportunities can lead to larger swings in monthly figures.
Still, the stepback in veterans unemployment is noteworthy because it ran counter to the national unemployment rate, which fell from 6.7 percent in December to 6.3 percent in January.
Veterans employment rates have routinely outpaced the general public in recent years. Only once in the last four years has the general population’s unemployment rate been lower than the overall veterans figure.
All of the job estimates are close to double what they were in January 2020, before the global coronavirus pandemic forced the temporary and permanent closing of businesses across the country.
BLS officials said they saw significant job gains in January among companies in technical consulting services, education work and local government posts. However, that positive news was offset by continued job losses in the hospitality and recreation industry — a major employer of veterans — as well as the food service industry.
The January jobs report covers the final few weeks of President Donald Trump’s term in office as well as the first few days of President Joe Biden’s new administration.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.