Paychecks for Patriots: Vets employment is Job No. 1

Veterans are doing pretty well on the jobs front these day. Victor Melendez said many employers are eager to attract more.

Melendez is the local veterans employment representative at CareerSource Research Coast. He specializes in helping veterans find work, and employers find veterans.

On Thursday, Nov. 16, CareerSource and the City of Port St. Lucie are co-hosting the local Paychecks for Patriots, a stateside series of veterans-preference job fairs. It’ll be at the city’s Community Center, 2195 SE Airoso Blvd., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For the first hour veterans and their direct family members will be allowed in. After 11 a.m., the event is open to all.

“We currently have 33 employers registered for the event,” Melendez said. “We had to put a cap on the number of employers we’d have at the event.”

The Department of Labor recently reported that the national unemployment rate among veterans was 2.7 percent in October. That compares to 3.8 percent for non-veterans the same month. The rates are not seasonally-adjusted, and the labor force participation rate among veterans is lower than for non-veterans. The national unemployment rate for all veterans was 4.3 percent in October 2016. The participation rate was slightly higher in 2016 than this year. In 2017, it was 49.7, down from 51.3.

In short, it’s the strongest veterans employment picture since the early 2000s.

The strongest cohort employment rate among veterans in October was the Gulf War-era, those who served in the late-1980s to 190s. The unemployment rate for this cohort was 1.9 percent, with a 77.8 percent participation rate. The national average participation rate for October was 65.6 percent.

The jobs picture is generally strong for all on the Treasure Coast.

The state released its September jobs report on Friday, Oct. 20. The Florida Department of Economic Affairs reported that the state’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate fell from 4 percent in August to 3.8 percent in September. It’s the first time the state has dipped below a 4 percent seasonally-adjusted jobless rate in more than a decade. St. Lucie County’s jobless rate dipped from a not-seasonally-adjusted 5 percent unemployment rate in August to 4.2 percent in September.

Melendez said in addition to local employers, Paychecks for Patriots will have local schools, veterans organizations and others.

“The colleges – they do have programs specialized for the veterans,” he said.

Among the non-employers slated to be at Paychecks for Patriots is St. Lucie County’s Veteran Services. Wayne Teegardin is the manager.

“We’re there primarily to answer questions about (Department of Veteran Affairs) benefits,” he said. “We answer a lot of questions at (veterans employment events).”

The Florida Department of Veteran Affairs, Florida National Guard and Department of Economic Opportunity started Paychecks for Patriots in 2012. At the time, some veterans populations were had above-average unemployment rates nationally and statewide. Melendez said as many programs enticed employers to seek veterans, word has gotten out that they’re good workers. He said that’ll be on display at Paychecks for Patriots.

“A lot of the employers participating, they really want to hire veterans,” he said.

Registration isn’t necessary, but is helpful.


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