The 2.4% unemployment rate for veterans was the lowest monthly mark since April 2019 and the first time the figure has been under 3% since the start of the pandemic in early 2020.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate has declined steadily in recent months, from 3.9% last October to 3.2% in February. It translates to about 216,000 veterans who were actively seeking work last month unable to find steady employment. That’s roughly half the total jobless veterans from March 2021.
Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan War era — who make up 43% of the veteran workforce in America today — saw their unemployment rate drop from 5.2% in January to 3% in March.
Veterans of the first Gulf War era — who make up another 28% of the veteran workforce — posted an unemployment rate of 1.4%, the third time in the last four months that group’s mark has been under 2%.
The national unemployment rate has also decreased steadily over the last year. In March 2021, the rate sat at 6%. By February of this year, it was down to 3.8%. Last month, it fell again, to 3.6%.
BLS officials said the national economy added 431,000 new jobs last month. In a statement, President Joe Biden praised the jobs news.
“This is a historic recovery — Americans are back at work,” he said.
Although veterans employment has generally outperformed the national jobless figures, lawmakers have introduced numerous jobs programs in recent years targeting former military members out of concern that their transition to civilian life could be more complicated than their non-military peers.
In the White House’s fiscal 2023 budget request unveiled this week, administration officials said they would ask for a $31 million boost in spending for entrepreneurial development programs targeting veterans, women and minorities to ensure they have “access to counseling, training, and mentoring services.”
About half of the 18 million veterans living in America today are in the labor force. The others are either too old or injured to work, or unable to find steady employment.
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.