The federal government hired the highest percentage of veterans in more than 20 years during the past fiscal year, the Office of Personnel Management announced Tuesday.

Veterans represented 28.5 percent of total federal hires in fiscal 2011, an increase of 2.9 percent over fiscal 2010 and 4.5 percent over fiscal 2009, according to preliminary figures released by OPM.

The unemployment rate for Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans stands at 11.1 percent, according to Labor Department figures released this month.

In 2009, President Obama signed an executive order that the White House said would transform the federal government into a model employer for American veterans.

The President’s Council on Veterans Employment, which was established by the order, includes representatives of 24 government agencies which have established annual veteran hiring goals.

“It’s working,” OPM Director John Berry said in a statement Tuesday.

“The President’s Council on Veterans Employment established and pursued aggressive goals, and for our veterans, meeting those goals means jobs that serve the American people and help sustain the growth that supports the propriety and leadership in the world,” Barry added.

Meeting on Tuesday, the council approved a pilot program committing each agency to hiring up to two previously homeless veterans.