The latest jobs report shows that our economy continued to recover in January, adding 151,000 jobs and extending the longest streak of private-sector job growth on record to 71 months. All told, 14 million private-sector jobs have been created since early 2010. The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.9 percent, and initial unemployment insurance claims remain near historic lows, with 285,000 initial claims during the week ending Jan. 30. Claims have been at or under 300,000 for 48 consecutive weeks, the first time that’s happened since December of 1973.
We also see solid wage growth, with average hourly earnings for all private-sector employees increasing by 12 cents. January’s report indicates that the last six months have seen the fastest wage growth for all private-sector employees since the recovery began.
Although this steady progress on employment and wages is encouraging, we still have more work to do to ensure that more people can share in the prosperity they are helping to create. We must continue to help people get the skills they need to enjoy the benefits of this recovery. That’s why the Department of Labor this week made available $20 million to connect young people to jobs and career pathways, focusing on communities that are contending with high youth unemployment rates, poverty and violent crime. Studies have shown that access to a job in the summer and beyond can make all the difference in the world to a young person who doesn’t have many other opportunities, or didn’t have the easiest start in life. The Labor Department recognizes that all of these young people are gifted and talented, and we must help draw out those unique skills and talents.
Labor unions, meanwhile, remain a powerful force for shared prosperity, a fact confirmed once again by the release last week of the annual Bureau of Labor Statistics report on union membership. Median weekly earnings of full-time union workers ($975) were more than 25 percent higher than those of non-union workers ($776) in 2015. That amounts to more than $10,000 a year for hardworking Americans, and it puts upward pressure on wages and standards throughout the economy.
Standing together and demanding a fairer economy, one where everyone earns a family-sustaining wage and gets a chance to punch their ticket to the middle class, is the unfinished business of this recovery. To keep us moving forward, we must reaffirm our commitment to investing in our people and their potential, and to making sure workers have a voice.