ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – When the pandemic hit the US, it brought Central Florida’s booming economy to a grinding halt. ​

What You Need To Know

  • Veterans among millions of Americans looking for jobs

  • Organizations like CareerSource Central Florida are helping veterans find work

  • CareersSource is doing virtual job fairs and hiring events

For veterans looking for work, unemployment numbers spiked as they joined millions of other Americans suddenly looking for jobs.  But a number of groups here in Central Florida and around the country are working to address unemployment, especially for veterans, to make sure our nation's heroes can find lasting work. 

United States Marine Corps veteran Carol Blair had a plan when it came to looking for a job after her family’s recent move to central Florida.  But in March, the pandemic struck. 

“Everything changed. And then everything went virtual so in addition to, ‘I can’t go introduce myself and I’m in a new location’, now everything is virtual, how do we do this? How do we even navigate this? So anxiety and angst was at an all-time high,” Blair said. 

She’s not alone. 

Before coronavirus changed so much across the U.S., unemployment in veterans nationwide in 2019 was at 3.1-percent, the lowest annual rate in 19 years.

Now as states including Florida deal with layoffs, furloughs and unemployment spikes, so too are our nation’s veterans. Nationally, the unemployment rate for veterans shot up to 6.8-percent in September, dropping to 5.9 percent in October. 

“There are more veterans looking for employment. And that’s why we’re working on these different things, especially doing virtual hiring events and job fairs, it really does help them to get connected,” said Annmarie O'Brien, Veterans Program Manager at CareerSource Central Florida.

Groups like CareerSource work directly to place veterans in careers, O'Brien said, pushing them to the front of the line wherever possible to help get vets noticed by potential employers.

"If it’s job placement, if it’s training, certifications, internships, an on the job training opportunity or just getting them connected to a job, that’s what happens," O'Brien said. "And it’s exciting for our veterans."

Many in CareerSource’s veterans program are veterans themselves, able to not only help veteran job seekers but connect with them on a deeper level. 

“He understood where I was coming from and once he did the intake and assessment information, he understood where I was trying to go," Blair said, talking about her career counselor with CareerSource Central Florida. 

It can be tricky. Transitioning from service to civilian life takes time, both O'Brien and Blair say. But - vets too bring a lot to the table. 

“There is a greater demand for service members because they understand that service member has the leadership, has the training, has the discipline and a sense of loyalty to stick with an organization,” Blair said. 

After months of searching for a job, Blair said CareerSource helped get her noticed by employers and prepared her for pandemic-related changes to her job hunt, like virtual and web-chat based interviews.  

And it worked. She started her new job at CVS Health just a few weeks ago. And - she said her career counselor still checks in. 

“We developed a relationship and we keep in touch,” Blair said. 

O’Brien says with their group and others prioritizing vets, they can help cut down the number of out of work veterans to make sure our servicemen and women find lasting careers even after they’ve hung up the uniform. 

“They served us. We’re here to serve them,” O'Brien said. 

If you’re a veteran and searching for a job, resources and help in finding jobs is available through organizations like CareerSource Central Florida