While Friday’s jobs report was a bump in the road to recovery, our labor market continues to show signs of economic growth. We have had 27 straight months of private sector job growth, which has helped 4.3 million Americans get back to work. This expansion has been broad, with every industry (except government) showing clear growth in the past two years.
Last month, we saw strong growth in health care, transportation and warehousing, and wholesale trade. In particular, manufacturing continues to be a symbol of the resilience of American industry, with nearly 500,000 jobs added over the last 28 months. This has been the strongest growth in manufacturing in any 28 month period since April 1995.
Additionally, millions more Americans are working today compared to the end of 2009. Competition for jobs has also eased in recent months. During the height of the recession, there were 7 jobseekers for every available job, making it very difficult to find employment. Today, as more jobs are becoming available, the ratio has declined to just over 3 jobseekers for every job opening – improving the chances for an unemployed individual to find an opportunity.
The steady increase in employment has also helped drive the unemployment rate down to the low 8% mark. Yet, there has been some debate about what is causing the unemployment rate to decline – is it people leaving the labor force or people getting jobs? The facts are clear: since August 2011 (when the rate started its steady decline) the primary factor in bringing the unemployment rate down has been people getting jobs.
But we have to do more. The economic situation continues to be a challenge for too many Americans who desperately want a job. We won’t be satisfied with our efforts until every American who wants a job can get a one.
At the Department of Labor, we are taking a number of steps to help the unemployed get back to work faster, including reforms to the unemployment insurance system. These reforms will provide states with more flexibility to respond to changes in the economy, provide employers with tools to avoid layoffs, help the unemployed get back into the workforce faster and even expand opportunities for the unemployed to start their own businesses.
However, as Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said on Friday, congress must come together to work on the to do list President Obama developed. These plans will encourage businesses to bring jobs back to the U.S.; help small businesses grow and hire more workers through tax credits; create more job opportunities for our veterans; invest in the clean energy economy; and help struggling homeowners with refinancing options so they can stay in their homes.
Adriana Kugler is the Chief Economist for Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.