Monday, December 22nd, 2014
Half-True
Obama
"Veterans’ unemployment is actually now lower than (the) general population. It was higher when I came into office."

Barack Obama on Monday, October 22nd, 2012 in the third presidential debate in Boca Raton, Fla.

Barack Obama touts his record on improving employment for veterans

Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama squared off in Boca Raton, Fla., for the third and final presidential debate, focused on foreign policy.

During the third and final presidential debate in Boca Raton, Fla., Barack Obama touted his accomplishments on getting unemployed veterans back to work.

"What I think the American people recognize is after a decade of war it’s time to do some nation building here at home," Obama said. "And what we can now do is free up some resources, to, for example, put Americans back to work, especially our veterans -- rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our schools, making sure that our veterans are getting the care that they need when it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, making sure that the certifications that they need for good jobs of the future are in place.

"You know, I was having lunch with a veteran in Minnesota who had been a medic dealing with the most extreme circumstances," Obama continued. "When he came home and he wanted to become a nurse, he had to start from scratch. And what we’ve said is let’s change those certifications. The first lady has done great work with an organization called Joining Forces putting our veterans back to work. And as a consequence, veterans’ unemployment is actually now lower than general population. It was higher when I came into office."

We wondered if Obama had his statistics correct.

We looked at data on veterans’ employment compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We focused on two categories of veterans -- all veterans, as well as those who have specifically served in the post-Sept. 11, 2011, armed forces. While Obama didn’t specify what type of veterans he was referring to, the context suggests he was referring to post-9/11 veterans.

The statistics for all veterans

Unemployment rate for all veterans, January 2009: 7.4 percent
Unemployment rate for the general population, January 2009: 7.8 percent

Obama had said veteran unemployment was higher than the general population when he came into office, so by this measurement, he’s wrong.

Unemployment rate for all veterans, September 2012: 6.7 percent
Unemployment rate for the general population, September 2012: 7.8 percent

Obama had said veteran unemployment is now lower than the general population, so on this measurement, he’s right.

The statistics for post-9/11 veterans only

Unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans, January 2009: 8.9 percent
Unemployment rate for the general population, January 2009: 7.8 percent

Obama had said veteran unemployment was higher than the general population when he came into office, so by this measurement, he’s right.

Unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans, September 2012: 9.7 percent
Unemployment rate for the general population, September 2012: 7.8 percent

Obama had said veterans unemployment is now lower than the general population, so on this measurement, he’s wrong.

Tallying the results

So, whichever measure you use, Obama’s formulation was half-right.

We should also note, as we have in the past, that presidents do not necessarily have a large impact on either rising or falling unemployment, since the nation’s labor market is sufficiently big and dynamic to be shaped by multiple factors beyond just presidential policies. However, presidential policies may have a bigger impact on employment among veterans than on other types of workers, since the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies have specific policies aimed at boosting veterans’ employment.

Our ruling

Obama said, "Veterans’ unemployment is actually now lower than (the) general population. It was higher when I came into office." Whether you’re talking about all veterans or just those who served after 9/11, Obama gets one number right but one number wrong. So we rate his claim Half True.