The January Employment Situation report showed that the U.S. economy’s recovery continued in the first month of 2014 – 142,000 new jobs created in the private sector and 113,000 overall. January was the 47th consecutive month of private-sector job growth, with 8.5 million new jobs over that period. The unemployment rate (6.6 percent) maintained its downward trend, reaching its lowest level since October 2008. Manufacturing continued to rebound and has now generated 93,000 jobs over the last six months. Construction experienced its largest month-to-month job growth since March 2007. The labor force participation rate inched upward by 0.2 percent.
But President Obama isn’t satisfied with a modest recovery. In his State of the Union address 10 days ago, he laid out an agenda that would quicken the pace of economic growth and job creation, an agenda based on the principle of opportunity for all. Through hard work, anyone should be able to succeed in America, to realize their dreams and secure a foothold in the middle class.
To restore the promise of opportunity, the president has offered concrete proposals on everything from preschool education to infrastructure investments to retirement security. He is committed to making sure our skills and training programs prepare people for good jobs. He stands ready to work with members of both parties on immigration reform that would grow the economy by $1.4 trillion over the next two decades.
To reward hard work with fair pay, he will sign an executive order increasing the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 per hour, and he urges Congress to extend that same raise to all workers. He recently secured commitments from more than 300 companies to develop best practices for recruiting and hiring the long-term unemployed. But too often, Congress remains a roadblock to progress. Just yesterday, a minority of senators blocked an extension of unemployment benefits that represent a lifeline for 1.7 million Americans struggling to find work through no fault of their own.
Regardless of where you come from, you deserve a fair shot to get ahead and leave a better life for your children – that is what we mean by opportunity for all. Let’s all work together to make it happen.
Follow Secretary Tom Perez on Twitter as @LaborSec.