So What’s the Unemployment Rate Among Veterans?

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Jobless vets – those who have recently waged America’s wars – are a national disgrace. The dignity and purpose that accompanies work is one of the best salves a veteran can apply to a mind rattled by combat. But the numbers can be like mercury. On Sunday, Mike Mullen, the retired admiral and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined with financier Steven A. Cohen in a Washington Post column and said “the unemployment rate of our youngest military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan hovers at a stunning 29 percent.”

But the very next day, Brandon Friedman of the Department of Veterans Affairs lauded the shrinking number of unemployed vets:

The unemployment rate for one closely watched group, Iraq and Afghanistan-era Veterans (or Gulf War II-era Veterans), fell more than a full percentage point to 9.2 percent.

So who’s right?

Ha – trick question! Both are. Mullen’s referring to only male vets, ages 18 to 24. Friedman’s data applies to all veterans of the post 9/11 wars. Bottom line: depending on the fruit you pick, you can end up with an apples-to-apples comparison, an apples-to-oranges comparison, or fruit cocktail.