Officials from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the unemployment rate for all veterans jumped from 3.6 percent in February to 4.1 percent in March, the highest that number has reached in two years. The national unemployment rate similarly rose from 3.5 percent in February to 4.4 percent in March.
The nearly 1 percent jump in the national unemployment rate was the largest recorded by BLS since January 1975.
However, those figures are a sampling of workers throughout the month and likely do not reflect the full scope of the ongoing pandemic. Surveys conducted by BLS begin mid-month, and nationwide social distancing and non-essential business closures did not take place in many states until after March 16.
The report says that the number of unemployed individuals across America rose by 1.4 million last month, to more than 7 million people. The number of unemployed veterans rose about 40,000 people to just under 370,0000.
But agency officials reported earlier that more than 10 million Americans filed initial claims for unemployment benefits in the last two weeks, meaning the unemployment figures are likely to increase substantially when the next estimates are released in May.
Late last month, Congress passed a $2 trillion stimulus package designed to ease the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak, which has sickened more than 220,000 people across America and resulted in at least 6,000 deaths.
Among the hardest hit sectors of the economy were the leisure and hospitality industry (which lost an estimated 459,000 jobs) and professional services (which lost about 52,000 jobs).
On Thursday, in a report analyzing the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on veterans, officials from the Bob Woodruff Foundation warned that former military members may be more frequently employed in industries likely to be impacted by the sudden recession.
More than a third of the unemployed veteran workforce is individuals who served after Sept. 11, 2001. While their unemployment rate dropped from February to March (4.5 percent to 4.1 percent), advocates have warned those younger workers could be among the most vulnerable to sudden layoffs and have the least savings available to weather financial woes.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.