The veterans unemployment rate across the country remained mostly unchanged for the third consecutive month as the nation enters its second year of pandemic with a significantly worse jobs situation than before the arrival of coronavirus in America.

The unemployment rate for all veterans in February was 5.5 percent, the same as in January, Bureau of Labor Statistics officials reported Friday. Among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars era, the figure was 5.9 percent, down slightly from 6.3 percent in January.

The figures equate to about 500,000 veterans across the country actively looking for jobs but unable to find stable employment. Only about half of all American veterans are in the U.S. workforce today, with the rest opting out because of age or injuries.

BLS officials said that the national unemployment dropped slightly from January to February, going from 6.3 percent to 6.2 percent. That’s the lowest that number has been since March 2020, when closures and quarantines began nationwide in response to the first coronavirus cases appearing in America.

Prior to that, monthly veterans unemployment rates had not topped 5 percent since summer 2014, at the end of the last national recession. About 170,000 additional veterans are out of work currently compared to February 2020.

Congressional Democrats have included in their latest coronavirus relief package $400 million to establish a new rapid retraining program for veterans who lost their jobs in the last year due to pandemic closures and cuts.

Although the broader $1.9 trillion relief package has been opposed by Republican lawmakers, the idea of a retraining program for veterans has been pushed by lawmakers from both parties since last summer.

Veterans would be eligible for the new program if they have already exhausted other federal education benefits, but are unable to find reliable 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.

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