The unemployment rate among U.S. veterans in December fell to its lowest level in more than two years, before the start of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that sidelined hundreds of thousands of jobs nationwide.
According to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday, the jobless rate among all American veterans last month was 3.2%, down from 3.9% the month prior.
In February 2020 — the last full month before the coronavirus pandemic forced shutdowns and work stoppages across the country — the unemployment rate for veterans was at 3.6%. It hasn’t been below 3.0% since December 2019 (when it was 2.8%) but had hovered around that mark for more than two years before the virus’ arrival.
The positive news on veterans unemployment was paired with improvements in the national jobless rate. It fell to 3.9%, its lowest level since the start of the pandemic and the first time it has been below 4.0% since February 2020 (when it was 3.5%).
Officials saw significant improvements in hiring for manufacturing positions, leisure and hospitality jobs and business services work.
However, federal officials said even with the recent employment progress, about 600,000 more Americans sought unemployment assistance in December than the month before the pandemic began.
The 3.2% unemployment rate among veterans translates into roughly 270,000 individuals still looking for work last month. About 8.1 million veterans are of working age and employed across America today.
BLS officials reported that the jobless rate among Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans — which can be more volatile month-to-month, due to smaller sampling sizes — was 4.3% for December, the same mark it hit in November.
Roughly 40% of the veterans’ workforce in America today served in the most recent wars.
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.