On March 21, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its 2011 report on the unemployment situation of Veterans. Unfortunately, some news outlets and Veterans organizations have keyed on a single statistical measure—the mean (average)—that, when taken out of context, is a bit misleading. For that reason, it’s important to look at the bigger picture and note what’s actually happening: While we still have a long way to go, the unemployment rate for Post-9/11 (Gulf War II-era) Veterans is—and has been—in an overall downward trend since January 2010.
In covering the BLS report, one news headline blared, “Unemployment Rises for Afghanistan and Iraq Era Veterans.” Another called the situation “bleak.” And one Veterans organization called the report “discouraging.” But, in fact, these reactions aren’t entirely accurate. Below, charts demonstrate the reason why.
It’s certainly true that the average monthly unemployment rate for Gulf War II-era Veterans was higher in 2011 (12.1 percent) than it was in 2010 (11.6 percent). But devoid of context, this fact can easily be misinterpreted. High numbers during the first half of 2011, coupled with the absence of data from January and February of 2012 drive up the 2011 mean and can make it appear as though unemployment of Iraq- and Afghanistan-era Veterans is rising. However, this is not the case. Rather, if we look at the two charts below, we can see the distinctive downward trend line.
This chart depicts the period from January 2010 through February 2012. We see several upward spikes, but there’s no mistaking which way the overall line is going.
The next chart excludes 2012 data and shows the information for 2010 and 2011—the two years compared by the BLS report. In this chart, the downward trend line is not as pronounced, but it’s definitely oriented that direction.
While the average for 2011 was higher than that of 2010, there is no doubt the same data show an improving unemployment situation for Gulf War II-era Veterans. There’s still much work to do, but through public-private partnerships and administration initiatives like Joining Forces and the Veterans Job Corps, we’ll continue striving to drive that number down until every Veteran who wants to work can find a meaningful job.