WASHINGTON - The unemployment rate for veterans of the post-Sept. 11 era dropped to 9.5 percent in June, potentially indicating a positive trend in veterans hiring even as national employment remains stagnant.

The June young veteran unemployment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics mark the fourth month this year that the rate has dipped below 10 percent. From January 2010 to December 2011, it dropped below 10 percent only twice. Last month, the rate was 12.7 percent, and a year ago, more than 13 percent of those veterans were out of work.

The White House and Congress in recent months have pushed government agencies and private companies to hire veterans, especially those who recently returned from fighting overseas. Legislation creating new jobs programs for veterans of all eras was one of the few significant pieces of legislation signed into law last year.

Veterans groups and outside economic experts have warned that the monthly data may be volatile because of limited sample sizes.

A survey by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America earlier this year put the actual unemployment rate among its members closer to 17 percent. On the other hand, a report released last month by researchers at the Center for a New American Security noted that the jobless rates could be inflated by troops taking "an acclimation break" before moving onto a new civilian career.

Still, veterans groups said the six-month trend of generally positive veterans jobs news seems to indicate progress. The unemployment rate for all veterans - 7.4 percent in June - has been lower than the national rate by about 1 percent each month since last July.

About 800,000 veterans are currently looking for work nationwide, according to the BLS data. About one-fourth of them are post-9/11 veterans.

The country's overall unemployment rate for June was 8.2 percent, unchanged from the previous month. Alan Krueger, Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in a statement that employment is growing "but it is not growing fast enough given the jobs deficit caused by the deep recession."

shanel@stripes.osd.milTwitter: @LeoShane

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