On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Veteran unemployment data for the month of May. The unemployment rate for one closely watched group, Iraq and Afghanistan-era Veterans (or Gulf War II-era Veterans), rose to 12.7 percent from 9.2 percent the previous month.
Tracking Veteran unemployment is notoriously difficult and we often see significant swings from one month to the next—making long-term analysis critically important. In the case of post-9/11 Veterans, the long-term unemployment trend remains stable and downward—a sign of recovery following the worst economic crisis since The Great Depression.
One way to visualize this is by looking at the trend line of monthly unemployment rates for the past 29 months (since January 2010). Even with intermittent spikes, the overall trend continues to move steadily downward.
However, because chunks of data are often better indicators, another way to view the trend is by looking at the moving (or rolling) average. The chart below captures 12-month averages for the periods ending in each of the previous 18 months. That chart looks a bit different, but the trend is similar: modest, but downward.
As you can see, while we’d like to have a sharper decline, it is absolutely inaccurate to assert that the unemployment rate for post-9/11 Veterans is “way up” or “skyrocketing” based solely on one month’s report.
That said, we’ve clearly got our work cut out for us. There is much to do in the way of lowering unemployment among all Veterans, and that’s why the President on Friday announced three more Veteran hiring programs. The White House has also called for the creation of a Veterans Job Corps.
In addition to these efforts, VA is continuing to hold events like our upcoming Veteran Hiring Fair in Detroit. It’s free and will offer jobs nationwide. We’ve also recently opened applications for the Veterans Retraining and Assistance Program (VRAP)—for eligible Veterans age 35 – 60.
The bottom line is that unemployment is still too high as long as thousands of returning Veterans still can’t find meaningful work. For that reason, VA, in conjunction with the White House and our private sector partners, will work tirelessly until we get where we need to be.