The veterans unemployment rate rose to its highest level in a year last month and posted above the national unemployment rate for the first time since 2016, according to figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday.

The 3.6 percent jobless rate among veterans in February remains well below the historically high levels of the mid-2010s, where that monthly figure was routinely above 7 percent and approached 10 percent on several occasions.

But February marked the second consecutive month of increases in the number of veterans looking for work and was nearly a full percentage point higher than the rate BLS reported in one year ago.

The national unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, down slightly from the 3.6 percent rate in January and lower than the veterans’ mark for the first time in 38 months.

The number of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan war era also saw an increase in February, up to 4.5 percent. That number had dropped below 2.0 percent at times last year, but officials have noted the statistic may be more prone to dramatic swings because of the smaller number of individuals polled for the sample.

The figures translate into about 330,000 veterans nationwide looking for work last month. About 8.9 million veterans are currently in the U.S. workforce.

The jobs numbers come as numerous business analysts are expressing worries about the long-term effects of the worldwide coronavirus outbreak on the national economy.

On Friday, researchers from the Center for American Progress warned that the spreading illness could “disrupt the global supply of goods” and “”waylay workers in affected areas, reducing labor supply on one end and on the other slow the demand for U.S. products and services.”

Congress this week finalized an $8.3 billion emergency spending package designed to deal with the public health threat. On Friday morning, at a White House bill signing for that measure, President Donald Trump praised both the federal response to the pandemic and the latest unemployment news, saying he was “shocked” at how good the BLS statistics were.

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.

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