Veterans unemployment levels matched their lowest mark of the pandemic in February as the U.S. economy added more jobs than expected last month.

According to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Friday, the overall veterans unemployment rate was 3.2% in February, down from 3.8% in January and matching the rate posted in December.

The veterans estimate has not been below that level since December 2019 — before the start of the coronavirus pandemic in America — when the unemployment rate was at 2.8%.

The figure translates into about 285,000 veterans across the country looking for work last month but unable to find steady employment. In February 2021, that number was nearly 500,000 individuals.

The monthly unemployment rate for younger veterans saw an even bigger drop from January (5.9%) to February (3.2%). One year ago, the unemployment rate for those individuals who served during the Iraq and Afghanistan War eras was at 5.1%.

The national unemployment rate also saw a drop, from 4.0% a month before to 3.8% in February. The economy added about 680,000 jobs last month, well above the 425,000 predicted by financial experts in recent days.

About 8.7 million veterans were employed in full-time jobs across the country last month. That’s about 200,000 below the number of veterans working before the start of the pandemic, but the total U.S. veterans population has also declined by the same amount over the last two years.

As recently as last August, that total was around 8.1 million, as numerous businesses continued to struggle with hiring and finances in the wake of partial closings caused by coronavirus mitigation efforts.

About half of the 18.5 million veterans in America today are not in the civilian workforce, either because of age or injury.

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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