The May jobs report offers more encouraging evidence that the U.S. economy continues to rebound at a steady, moderate rate with a total of 178,000 new private sector jobs added in May. That makes 39 straight months of growth. In a little more than three years, the economy has now generated just shy of 7 million jobs.
Professional and business services (+57,000), leisure and hospitality (+43,000) and retail trade (+28,000) all experienced surges in May. At 7.6 percent, the unemployment rate remained essentially unchanged – the ninth consecutive month that it has been below 8 percent. The increase in the civilian labor force of 420,000 (the highest increase since last October), together with higher consumer confidence, suggests that Americans are increasingly bullish about the nation’s economic future.
The economy is clearly recovering, but not as rapidly or robustly as it can and must. There are still too many hardworking men and women who can’t find jobs, too many families struggling to secure their place in the middle class.
The president’s budget offers a path to a more accelerated recovery. The president has put forward a plan that invests responsibly in job-creating initiatives while reducing the deficit by $1.1 trillion over the next decade, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis. Now is not the time for short-sighted, irresponsible austerity measures.
The president has proposed several infrastructure investments that will put more people back to work in construction and other industries. His aggressive manufacturing innovation agenda will provide a shot in the arm to a sector that has now experienced a three-month jobs decline.
Fixing our broken immigration system, so that everyone plays by the same rules and pays their fair share, is also part of the solution. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that comprehensive immigration reform could increase gross domestic product by as much as 1.3 percent, while contributing to deficit reduction.
Finally, education remains critical to long-term economic growth, as a skilled workforce increases productivity and becomes a magnet drawing jobs to our shores. The Department of Education has reported that high school graduation has reached a 35-year high, with increases across all racial and ethnic groups. But we need to do more to ensure that promising young people aren’t priced out of a college education or saddled with crippling debt just to get the schooling they need.
Seth Harris is the acting secretary of labor.