The head of veterans employment services at the Labor Department will step down at the end of May, giving the White House less than three months to find his replacement.

Keith Kelly, who served as assistant secretary of the Veterans' Employment and Training Service for the last two years, made the announcement late Friday, just hours after another round of good news with the veterans unemployment rate.

"When I leave VETS, I will be 69½, and that is enough," he said in a statement. "I am leaving a good organization with every confidence it will keep moving forward. I am going back home to Montana to see how a saddle feels again."

The service works as the lead for federal employment efforts for veterans, overseeing job training, transition assistance and employment rights issues.

Kelly has also been influential in the administration's larger effort to end veterans homelessness by the start of 2016, overseeing training and assistance programs to help those financially insecure veterans find jobs.

Kelly, who earned the Combat Infantryman's Badge and Bronze Star with the Army's 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War, had previously served as chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies.

He's held various labor and agriculture posts in the state of Montana and the last two Democratic presidents' administrations.

Replacing him will require a new candidate to be nominated by the White House, then Senate confirmation. No candidates have been announced.

Kelly's departure came the same day the monthly national jobs figures were released, which showed a continued drop in the rate of unemployment among veterans.

The all-era veterans unemployment rate for February stands at 5.3 percent, the 11th consecutive month under 6 percent and the 49th consecutive month the number has outpaced the national unemployment rate.

But the rate among younger veterans has stayed consistently above both, with Iraq and Afghanistan war-era veterans posting a 6.7 percent rate in February.

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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