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Gov. Scott Walker is touting his record on veterans as he tours the country preparing to make a presidential bid.
At a "Politics and Pies" event May 30, 2015 in New Hampshire, Walker boasted of the success veterans have had finding jobs in Wisconsin.
"Nationally the unemployment rate for veterans is far greater than the national unemployment rate," Walker said, adding Wisconsin is "one of those rare examples where unemployment is actually lower for veterans than it is for the population as a whole and certainly lower than it is nationally."
Are Wisconsin veterans doing that well in the Wisconsin job market?
To support his claim, Walker's team sent a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics about veteran and non-veteran employment. This is the best way to make the comparison, as opposed to measuring veterans vs the overall workforce.
Let’s see how it breaks down.
The national picture: Walker said "nationally, the unemployment rate for veterans is far greater than the national unemployment rate."
But the national unemployment rate for veterans is actually lower than the rate for non-veterans. For veterans, the rate was 5.3 percent, compared to 6 percent for non-veterans. That's true historically as well.
A report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs shows that from 2000 to 2013, veterans had lower unemployment rates than non-veterans.
The Wisconsin picture: Walker also said in Wisconsin "unemployment is actually lower for veterans than it is for the population."
Wisconsin's rate for veterans was 4.1 percent while the rate for non-veterans was 5.4 percent. So, the state's veterans are employed at higher rates than their civilian counterparts.
How rare is it? In his claim, Walker said Wisconsin’s situation was a "rare" one. But 32 other states also had veteran unemployment rates lower than non-veterans. That’s not all that rare.
Wisconsin vs. national: Finally, Walker said Wisconsin's veteran unemployment rate was "certainly lower than it is nationally." Federal data confirms this aspect of the claim, with Wisconsin's veteran unemployment rate at 4.1 percent, while nationally the rate was 5.3 percent.
So, the data he provided supported two of the four aspects to his claim.
More about the data
Comparing the fraction of vets who are unemployed in the state to the fraction of unemployed vets nationally makes sense, said Steven Deller, a professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
But unemployment rates don’t necessarily show the whole picture.
The data takes an average from the last year’s monthly Current Population Survey of 60,000 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
People who have worked at a regular job in the previous week are considered employed, while people who are jobless, looking for a job and available for work are considered unemployed.
But the approach doesn’t account for workers who are underemployed or employed outside their field, and doesn’t take into account discouraged workers who stopped looking for a job.
BLS does calculate other unemployment rates, though they are not often cited by politicians or the media.
One is known as the U-6, which takes the total of the unemployed, all persons marginally attached to the labor force and involuntary part-time workers. A rule of thumb puts the U-6 rate as double the conventional unemployment rate.
The U-6 rate for Wisconsin is 12.1, while the national rate is 13.8.
BLS economist Steve Hipple calculated an estimated U-6 rate for veterans nationally at 9.7 percent. BLS doesn’t publish state U-6 rates specifically for veterans, .
Walker said "Nationally, the unemployment rate for veterans is far greater than the national unemployment rate," and Wisconsin is "one of those rare examples where unemployment is actually lower for veterans than it is for the population as a whole and certainly lower than it is nationally."
Data from BLS supported two of the four aspects of his claim and experts cautioned about use of raw statistics.
Our definition for Half True is a statement that is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context. That fits here.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment situation of veterans-2014, March 18,2015
Phone conversation with Nicholas Aakre, economist, Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 15, 2015
Email exchange with Steven Durlauf, professor, University of Wisconsin
United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans employment 2000-2013, December 2014
Email Exchange with Steven Deller, professor, department of agricultural and applied economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison
U.S. Department of Labor, Measure of labor underutilization from the Current Population Survey, March, 2009
Phone conversation with Steve Hipple, economist, Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 18, 2015
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Alternative measures of labor underutilization for states, April 24, 2015
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