Veterans jobless rate drops to lowest average in more than 20 years

by Tommy Grant

The veterans unemployment rate rose slightly in December but still finished 2023 at the lowest monthly average in more than 20 years, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Researchers estimated that roughly 261,000 veterans seeking work were unable to find full-time employment last month, an unemployment rate of 3%. That figure was 2.8% in November and had been below 3% nine times since the start of 2023.

But the 3% veterans unemployment rate was still the lowest December figure recorded by BLS since 2000, when the agency began publicly releasing data on veterans job searches. And veterans unemployment remains well below the national rate of 3.7%.

For all of 2023, the monthly veterans unemployment rate averaged just under 2.8%, the lowest since at least 2000. According to Department of Labor data, it’s only the third time in the last 24 years that the average monthly rate was below 3%.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the veterans unemployment rate rose to more than 11%, while the national rate rose to almost 15%.

Veterans unemployment has been a focus of lawmakers for years, despite research showing that former military members frequently outperform their civilian peers in finding full-time jobs.

More than half of all veterans in America today (51%) are unable to work because of age, illness or injury, according to federal researchers.

Of the 8.7 million who are in the labor force, veterans who served in the Gulf War II era (after Sept. 11, 2001) make up almost half (47%) of the individuals employed. One in seven veterans with full-time jobs are women.

The total number of veterans has declined steadily over the last decade, from about 21.3 million in 2014 to 17.7 million at the end of 2023.

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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