Veterans unemployment rates saw another sizable drop in October, the latest sign that some of the economic effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic may be softening.
But jobless claims among veterans — and much of the rest of workers in America — still remain significantly above rates from one year ago. And increasing numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths could cause additional negative effects in months to come.
On Friday, officials from the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the unemployment estimate for veterans in October was 5.5 percent, down almost a full point from the month before (6.4 percent in September) and less than half of its highest point in 2020 (11.7 percent, in April).
The number represents almost 500,000 veterans nationwide looking for jobs last month. About 8.7 million veterans in America are estimated to be of working age and able to work, just under half of the entire U.S. veterans population.
Among veterans of the Iraq War and Afghanistan War eras, 6.2 percent were unemployed and looking for work last month. Like the overall veterans rate, that number has decreased significantly in recent months but remains well above pre-pandemic levels.
The national unemployment rate in October was 6.9 percent, one point lower than the September rate. It has declined every month since April, when it peaked at 14.7 percent. In February, the national unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, the lowest level for the economic indicator in 50 years.
Amid the positive indicators released Friday, BLS officials warned that the number of long-term unemployed Americans (individuals jobless for 27 weeks or more) tripled last month, to 3.6 million.
Members of Congress have made veteran hiring support and programs a focus in recent years, and proposed several new job training programs this year for veterans to offset the effects of the pandemic. However, most of those efforts have been stalled amid election campaigning and Capitol Hill legislative gridlock in recent months.
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.