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Unemployment report shows rates looking up for veterans

President Obama speaks at the White House on April 30, 2013, about jobs for veterans (Charles Dharapak/Associated Press.)

The April jobs report released Friday contained plenty of cheery news. The unemployment rate dipped slightly, from 7.6 percent in March to 7.5 percent in April. The market added 165,000 jobs, beating expectations, and the number of jobs added in March were revised upward. Moreover, writes Neil Irwin at Wonkblog, the drop in the unemployment rate was driven by more people finding jobs rather than more job hunters leaving the labor force.

But the report also contained some good news for veterans. For all veterans, the jobless rate in April was 6.2 percent, significantly lower than the general population's and less than the 7.1 percent of veterans who were unemployed in April of 2012. For veterans who served after 9/11, the rate also dropped dramatically, from 9.2 percent in March of 2013 to 7.5 percent in April.

The latter eye-popping drop, however, could be statistically invalid, warns Army Times. "The April report shows an unexplainable improvement for Post-9/11 women," the publication notes, and the sharp drops in the rate "are likely the result of Post-9/11 veterans making up a small part of the Labor Department’s sample," particularly for women. Still, even if this month's drop is questionable, there has been a generally steady recent down-tick in the unemployment rate for veterans. In January of 2013, for instance, the unemployment rate for veterans who served after 9/11 was 11.7 percent; for all veterans, the rate was 7.6 percent.

Perhaps some of those improvements can be tied to efforts like the White House's campaign to connect unemployed veterans with 100,000 jobs—an effort it launched two years ago. The White House said Tuesday it had nearly tripled its goal, and this week a new goal of 435,000 such hires or trainings for the next five years was also announced.

Pledging to hire veterans is not only good business, it brings good PR, as Wal-Mart found with its announcement back in January to hire any veteran who wants a job. The issue is getting recent attention on Capitol Hill, too. In April, the Troop Talent Act was introduced in both houses of Congress to help troops more easily obtain certification of licenses and certifications that would help put their skills to work in the private sector.

Whatever the reason, the improvement is encouraging. That's not only because it's a shame that those who risk their lives for this country might face financial strain. It's also because a high jobless rate for veterans, even particular groups like young men or those who served after 9/11, can affect the perception hiring managers have of veterans' ability to hold down jobs. Notes the magazine G.I. Jobs, "this focus skews the public's perception and creates a misperception that can hurt the job prospects for all veterans." And that unintended consequence, of course, is something no one wants to see.

Jena McGregor is a columnist for On Leadership.

Read also:

Why companies hire veterans, and why they don’t

The hottest jobs for military veterans

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