The unemployment rate among veterans improved last month even as the national jobless rate slightly worsened, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday.

About 221,000 veterans seeking full-time employment were unable to find steady work last month, an unemployment rate of 2.5%. That’s down from 2.8% in February and is the lowest mark for the federal metric since last October.

Economists have cautioned that the monthly employment figures can be volatile because of limited sampling sizes and participation rates. However, the veterans unemployment numbers have shown a steady trend of improvement over the last two years, and have now stayed below 3.0% for 12 consecutive months.

That comes in contrast to the national unemployment rate, which rose from 3.4% in January to 3.6% in February. The American economy added about 311,000 new jobs last month, but the number of individuals who had temporary positions eliminated also increased by 223,000, resulting in the slight increase in jobless figures.

The veterans unemployment rate has consistently outperformed that of the general public in recent years. Over the last 72 months, BLS officials said, the veterans jobless estimate has been higher than the national rate only once.

The unemployment rate among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan eras also improved in February, dropping to 2.8% from 3.8% a month earlier.

Those younger veterans make up almost half of all veterans working in America today. Veterans who served during the first Gulf War era and the late 1990s comprise another 25% of the workforce.

BLS officials said the job sectors with the most growth last month were among hospitality and retail companies, while information industry and transportation jobs saw significant losses.

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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