Along Florida’s Space Coast, which employs thousands of engineers and other aerospace experts, many were instantly without a job when cuts to the space program coincided with the disastrous Great Recession. But now, engineering staffing appears to be back on the incline in the Sunshine State, Bloomberg reports.
According to the news source, Brian Medeiros is the poster boy for the typical laid-off aerospace worker in Florida. After working at the Kennedy Space Center for 10 years, the 51-year-old quickly found himself without a job, and for 15 months made a living as a truck driver. That is until Brazil’s Embraer moved into Melbourne, Florida, in 2011, bringing a slew of aerospace jobs along with it.
Now, Medeiros works as lead technician at Embraer’s executive jet assembly plant – just one of the many success stories coming out of the 72-mile-long Space Coast, the media outlet stated.
A year has passed since NASA shut down its space shuttle program, which immediately cut more than 7,000 jobs in Florida. Although this was certainly a blunder to the region’s economy, the area’s afterburners appear to have kicked in, with unemployment in central Florida’s eastern coast down to 9.4 percent in June, compared with 11.7 percent in August 2011. Across the state, unemployment has dropped from 10.7 percent in June 2011 to 8.6 percent in June 2012.
Dina Reider-Hicks, a senior director at the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, said that the pangs of unemployment are still palpable, but the detriments of the loss of the shuttle program may not have been as bad as they could have been.
"Certainly the pain is very real for those still looking for work," Reider-Hicks said. "There has been a sting, there has been an impact. But it hasn’t been as severe as people thought."
According to the media outlet, Embraer’s new Florida plant will employ as many as 200 people, while a nearby customer service center will add another 50 jobs. Boeing said it plans to create as many as 550 jobs in the area as it takes on projects to help develop the private space industry, creating aircraft that can travel to and from the International Space Station.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, aerospace engineering employment is set for stable growth through 2020.