Low, and behold – St. Lucie’s jobless rate keeps falling

Area employment is stronger than it’s been for 10 years.

Marcello Dossantos, vice president of strategic development at CareerSource Research Coast, said the last employment report for 2017 – covering December, and released Jan. 19 – was gold for the Treasure Coast.

“(Unemployment) numbers continue to trend downward in the Port St. Lucie (metropolitan statistical area),” he wrote in an emailed response to questions. “It is the lowest it has been in the past decade. The unemployment rate in the Port St. Lucie MSA was 3.6 (percent) back in 2006. By 2007 it had gone up a full point to 4.6 (percent).”

The December jobless rate in the statistical area that covers St. Lucie and Martin counties was 4.4 percent not seasonally adjusted, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. That’s down from 5.4 percent the year before.

St. Lucie’s jobs performance is consistent with the state’s. Florida’s jobless rate went from 4.7 percent not seasonally adjusted at the end of 2016 to 3.7 percent this December. The national not-seasonally-adjusted rate went from 4.5 percent to 3.9 percent.

“As the report states the Port St. Lucie MSA had the fastest annual job growth rate compared to all the metro areas in the state for manufacturing in December 2017,” Dossantos wrote in the email.

According to the state report, manufacturing jobs were up in St. Lucie and Martin counties by 900 jobs in 2017. Some of those counted manufacturing jobs for 2017 are actually due to the state correcting previously flawed numbers. Nevertheless, Dossantos said there’s plenty of growth in manufacturing on the Treasure Coast.

Other industry sectors that gained big in 2017 were education and health services with 1,400 additional jobs; trade, transportation and utilities with 700; mining, logging and construction with 400; other services, which include careers such as mechanics, with 300; and financial services with 100.

Professional and business services shed 1,300 jobs in St. Lucie and Martin counties in 2017. The next largest job-dropper was leisure and hospitality with 600. Dossantos said he’s unsure why leisure and hospitality would have job losses given that local tourism officials are reporting increases in visitors to the area, He’s investigating that question. Government also shed jobs in 2017 – 500. So did information, which was down 100.

Manufacturing has been bedeviled by a squeeze of workers with the right skills, Dossantos said.

“We have been talking about the skills gap and lack of a skilled workforce to support this job growth trend for months now,” he said in the email. “As a strategy to begin creating a pipeline of skilled manufacturing works, CareerSource Research Coast, the Treasure Coast Manufactures Association and the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County are in the process of creating a registered manufacturing apprenticeship.”

He added that a paid 3,000-hour apprenticeship program could be up by as early as April.

“The (industrial technician apprenticeship) on-the-job learning and related instruction are relevant to manufacturing settings ranging from marine manufacturing, metal fabrication, fabrication and precision machined components for the aerospace industry to plastics or general production, and can be customized to a particular manufacturer’s criteria,” he said.

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