The declining jobless rate for U.S. veterans is a good sign, but the need for training and employment services will continue to grow, said Mike Michaud, assistant secretary of labor for veterans employment, who was in St. Louis Wednesday to visit the St. Patrick Center.
“The numbers are going in the right direction,” said Michaud, who has held the post at the U.S. Department of Labor since December. “We’ve just got to continue doing everything we can to identify the veterans, get them into an American Job Center and get them into jobs. It requires a collaboration among a lot of different agencies.”
The national unemployment rate for veterans was 4.6 percent last year, compared to 5.2 percent for the entire population, a sign that the collaboration between federal, state and local agencies is working, Michaud said.
While the financial resources and programs are in place to take care of veterans, the population of veterans will continue to grow as the U.S. military downsizes, he said.
“The economy is improving," Michaud said. “What happens if there is another downturn in the economy? We’re working as aggressively as we can over this next year and beyond to set policies in place so we keep the focus on our core mission: to get veterans and their families into jobs. That need is always going to be there.”
Michaud met with staff and clients of the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program at St. Patrick Center. It’s a national Department of Labor initiative for homeless veterans that provides employment training and support for substance-abuse and mental health issues. He noted that nearly 70 percent of veterans who participate in that program have found jobs.