The unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001 — a group referred to as Gulf War-era II veterans — rose to 7.3% in 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported earlier this year. The jobless rate for all veterans increased to 6.5% in 2020. These increases reflect the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the labor market.
In August 2020, 40% of Gulf War-era II veterans had a service-connected disability, compared with 26% of all veterans. Among other highlights from the 2020 data:
• Unemployment rates for both male and female veterans increased in 2020, reflecting the COVID-19 pandemic. The rate for male veterans was 6.5%, little different from the rate of 6.7% for female veterans.
• Unemployment rates for white, black, Asian, and Hispanic veterans were lower than for their non-veteran counterparts in 2020.
• Among the 581,000 unemployed veterans in 2020, 54% were ages 25 to 54, 41% were age 55 and over, and 5% were ages 18 to 24.
• The unemployment rate of veterans with a service-connected disability, at 6.2% in August 2020, did not have a statistically significant change over the year. The rate for veterans with no disability rose to 7.2%.
“In 2020, 18.5 million men and women were veterans, accounting for about 7% of the civilian non-institutional population age 18 and over.”
• Gulf War-era II veterans who reported a service-connected disability rating of less than 30% were much more likely to be in the labor force than those with a rating of 60% or higher in August 2020 (91.5%, compared with 63.6%).
• In August 2020, 31% of employed veterans with a service-connected disability worked in the public sector, compared with 19% of veterans with no disability and 14% of non-veterans.
In 2020, 18.5 million men and women were veterans, accounting for about 7% of the civilian non-institutional population age 18 and over. Of all veterans, about 10% were women. In the survey, veterans are defined as men and women who have previously served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces and who were civilians at the time these data were collected.
Veterans are much more likely to be men than are non-veterans, and they also tend to be older. In part, this reflects the characteristics of veterans who served during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam era, all of whom are now over 60 years old. Veterans who served during these wartime periods accounted for 37% (6.8 million) of the total veteran population in 2020. Forty-one percent of veterans (7.6 million) served during the Gulf War era I (August 1990 to August 2001) or Gulf War era II (September 2001 to present). Twenty-two percent (4.1 million) served outside the designated wartime periods.
In August 2020, 4.7 million veterans, or 26% of the total, had a service-connected disability. Veterans with a service-connected disability are assigned a disability rating by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or the U.S. Department of Defense. Ratings range from 0 to 100%, in increments of 10 percentage points, depending on the severity of the condition.
The unemployment rate for veterans with a service-connected disability was 6.2% in August 2020, not statistically different from the rate for veterans with no disability (7.2%). The unemployment rates for male and female veterans with a service-connected disability were not statistically different (5.8% and 8.9%, respectively). The labor-force participation rate for veterans with a service-connected disability (48.6%) was also not statistically different from the rate for veterans with no disability (47.2%). Among veterans with a service-connected disability, 27% reported a disability rating of less than 30%, while 44% had a rating of 60% or higher.