Veteran unemployment is at its lowest rate in more than 20 years, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Veteran unemployment is at its lowest rate in more than 20 years, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Wesley Jones/U.S. Air National Guard)

Veteran unemployment is at its lowest rate in more than 20 years, but work remains to put former service members into occupations that match their skills and experience, according to a veterans advocate.

The unemployment rate for veterans in the United States in 2023 averaged 2.8%, the lowest rate since 2000, according to data collected over the past 30 years by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last year marked the third time in the past 24 years that the yearly average has been below 3%.

“Veteran unemployment has been well below the national unemployment rate for years and reflects how business values veterans in their workforce,” Eric Eversole, president of Hiring Our Heroes, told Stars and Stripes by email Jan. 12. “The larger issue is underemployment and making sure that a newly transitioned veteran is placed in the right opportunity and provides them with a strong growth pathway.”

Approximately 261,000 veterans were unable to find full-time employment in December, putting the veteran unemployment rate at 3%, still below the national rate of 3.7%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Veterans who served after September 2001 experienced the highest unemployment rate, 3.3%, of any veteran group categorized by the bureau. The average rate last year for veterans in a category that includes World War II, Korea and Vietnam was 3.1%. Gulf War-era veterans were at 2.8%.

“We have seen a paradigm shift in veteran unemployment,” Eversole said. “When Hiring Our Heroes was founded in 2011, we saw widespread unemployment among veterans, especially among those veterans under the age of 25.”

Hiring Our Heros is a foundation created by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to help service members transition into civilian employment.

The collaboration between the public and private sectors in supporting veterans’ transition to civilian employment is important, Eversole said.

“It’s not just about finding a job; it’s about finding the right career that honors the service and sacrifices of our veterans while utilizing their unique skills and experiences,” he said.

More than 45,000 nonprofits serve veterans and their families to help support them with employment, medical needs and financial help, according to Nonprofit Pro, a source for nonprofit professionals.

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Kelly Agee is a reporter and photographer at Yokota Air Base, Japan, who has served in the U.S. Navy for 10 years. She is a Syracuse Military Photojournalism Program alumna and is working toward her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland Global Campus. Her previous Navy assignments have taken her to Greece, Okinawa, and aboard the USS Nimitz.

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