Unemployment among recent veterans has fallen sharply and now is the same as for the rest of the U.S. population, hovering just above 7 percent, new federal statistics show.

The figures suggest that a vexing and stubborn trend of higher joblessness among veterans who left the military after September 2001 has been reversed. It now appears that veterans are being hired at a faster rate than nonveterans.

Advocates credited a variety of public and private efforts, including major U.S. corporations beginning to make good on pledges to hire hundreds of thousands of veterans, federal tax incentives for employers and allowances for veterans to receive professional licenses based on their military training.

In the second quarter of this year, average unemployment among post-9/11 veterans was 7.4 percent, said the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is not statistically different from the rate of 7.2 percent for nonveterans. Until recently, the jobless rate among those veterans remained stuck in double digits, even as U.S. unemployment peaked in early 2010 and began to decline.

The labor bureau’s monthly employment surveys had been pointing toward a narrowing since April. But the monthly data are considered far less reliable than quarterly figures, which were released without fanfare earlier this month.

Government economists are cautiously optimistic about the decline. James Walker of the labor bureau called the improvement impressive but said there was no guarantee that the trend would continue.

About 2.8 million veterans have served in the military since 9/11. Their current employment picture looks even better when their demographics are taken into account. The largest share — more than 40 percent — are men between 25 and 34. Their unemployment rate was lower than that of their nonveteran counterparts: 6.6 percent compared to 7.3 percent.

“The labor force statistics are pointing in the right direction,” said Gary Shaheen, director of employment policy at Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families. “But we still have a lot of work to do.”

los angeles times