The U.S. Veterans job rate held steady in September at 3.6% amid the second straight month of poor job growth across the country as the coronavirus and its Delta variant kept a grip on economic activity. It is only the second time since February 2020 that the unemployment rate for veterans has been below 4%, according to a monthly report from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released Friday.
But optimistic forecasts by market analysts for an increase in new hires of veterans, possibly to 500,000, were frustrated. Only 194,000 jobs were added to the payroll in September, down from the adjusted rate of 366,000 in August and 1.1 million in July.
More post-9/11 veterans reported unemployment, up to 3.5% from 3.1% last month, even as the overall U.S. unemployment rate dropped from 5.2% to 4.8% in September, BLS said.
Joblessness for those veterans was still well below the double-digit rates in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when it spiked to 11.7% in April 2020. “These are still pretty good numbers,” said Tom Porter, executive vice president of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “The key problem here is the economy is inextricably linked to COVID. It’s not really going to take off until we solve the pandemic.”
Even so, the long-term outlook for veterans in the job market is showing improvement despite the pandemic and other factors, said Bryan Rollins, director of the Warriors to Work program at the Wounded Warrior Project. “We still see growth. It’s still basically a bull market,” Rollins said.
He noted a 12% increase in Wounded Warriors job placement efforts over the last fiscal year. The number of veterans who found work through the program increased from 1,900 to 2,100. BLS data was collected in mid-September, before signs of a decline in the number of Delta variant cases and hospitalizations emerged.
Other factors may also have played a role in clamping down on an economic recovery, such as uncertainty about raising the federal debt ceiling, the deadlock in Congress, the border crisis, natural disasters, and a chaotic pullout from Afghanistan.
President Joe Biden said Friday that the BLS data for September was from mid-month and pointed to signs of an upturn, while he made another pitch for his proposed $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill and $3.5 trillion bills on a variety of social programs. “Look, it’s essential that we have to regain the momentum we’ve lost,” Biden said.
US companies were more pessimistic about the prospects for economic recovery than Bidens’ plans, while economists said a recovery might already be taking place.
“We are in the midst of a worker shortage crisis, and the number of potential workers is shrinking. Multi-trillion tax and spending proposals in Washington will only make matters worse,” Neil Bradley, chief policy officer for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.
Robert Frick, a corporate economist at the Navy Federal Credit Union, said the BLS survey conducted in mid-September did not follow the deceleration of the Delta variant wave in the second half of the month. “There are signs that hiring is already accelerating, certainly in the last ten days, and it should accelerate through October,” Frick said.