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Good afternoon. Thank you, Steve, for that kind introduction, for your great friendship and for your incredible service to this community as U.S. Attorney for the
Thank you all for coming out today. It's such an honor to speak to an esteemed forum like the
In a new, 21st century economy,
The bottom line:
After just over a year on the job, and as we approach
We've Come a
But gradually and painstakingly, we've pushed the car out of the ditch. Thanks to the grit of our people, the ingenuity of our businesses and the leadership of the Obama administration and our state, local and non-profit partners, we've emerged from the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes.
July was the sixth straight month of job growth north of 200,000 -- the first time that's happened since 1997. All told, we've added just shy of 10 million private sector jobs since
Last week, the
Manufacturing is back -- we're making things in America again. America's manufacturers lost 3.4 million jobs in the seven years before the recession and another 2 million jobs during the recession. But now, manufacturing is growing faster than at any point in the last 15 years -- 707,000 new manufacturing jobs created since early 2010. And the manufacturing renaissance in
The Obama administration has taken strong steps to catalyze this growth. We've invested hundreds of millions of dollars in regional manufacturing innovation hubs, bringing together private sector leaders and universities to do cooperative research, develop cutting-edge technology, train workers to use that technology, and make sure research is turned into real-world products made by American workers. The pilot hub was in
Everywhere I go, I meet with employers who are more bullish about the future than they've been in years and who are looking to invest in American communities again. Outsourcing is out and insourcing is in. A study by the
Across the board, so much of the data is trending in the right direction.
We've made huge strides in energy independence. For the first time in 20 years, the U.S. is producing more oil at home than it imports from abroad. Natural gas production is on pace to reach a record high this year, and we have passed
Our high school graduation rate is at a record high. More young people are earning their college degrees than ever before. The Latino dropout rate was cut in half between 2000 and 2011, with the number of Latinos pursuing higher education on the rise.
And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, health care costs been tamed and families finally have the peace of mind of knowing they won't have their savings wiped out by an injury or illness. 154,000 Ohioans enrolled in a plan through the
I had an extraordinary experience here in
...But There's More Still To Do
But despite the resurgent economy, despite all the cause for optimism, there are undeniable storm clouds to contend with. There's more to do if we're going to have a nation truly built on opportunity for all.
For too many people, the recovery feels like little more than an abstraction. Too many of them are on the outside looking in at the American Dream. Too many job seekers are still on the sidelines. Because of stagnant wages, too many people are working harder but falling further behind. The challenge before us is to restore the basic bargain that's always defined America -- if you work hard and take responsibility, you'll have a chance to succeed. We have to pick up the pace of growth and make sure the rising tide lifts all boats in a meaningful way.
Let's look at the long-term unemployed, for example. Of all the issues I face as Labor Secretary, this is the one that keeps me up at night. The numbers are staggering and virtually unprecedented: there are 3.1 million people who've been out of work for 27 weeks or more, and they account for about one-third of the total number of unemployed.
And if you think the statistics are alarming, the personal stories are really a kick in the gut. I'm still pen pals with one woman I met, a single mother of two sons who are both in the military. She wore a hat and a coat around the house last winter because she couldn't afford to turn the thermostat above 58 degrees. She told me that being jobless for more than a year had left her with a "poverty of spirit."
I met a veteran who's been unemployed for two years after 31 years of IT experience and two tours in
Their stories are heartbreaking, and at the same time their resilience is inspiring. They're diligent and determined. They're not looking for a free ride, just a fair chance. One man right here in
Just this morning, I had a follow-up visit with three local unemployed workers that I first met when I was here back in March. One has 25-plus years of experience in corporate real estate; another has an MBA. But they're still having a hard time getting back on their feet. These folks don't lack intelligence or virtue or strength of character; they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. There but for the grace of God go any of us.
The president and my department are confronting this challenge head-on. We'll be announcing the grant winners soon for a program called Ready-to-Work, which promotes strategies and best practices for the hiring of more long-term unemployed.
It's not just that these folks need our help; it's that we need them back in the game. We're all stronger when America fields a full team. These are skilled, talented people with an important contribution to make to the economy. And we don't have a person to spare.
Helping the long-term unemployed is just one piece of unfinished business. We also have to take the necessary steps to ensure that we reward hard work with fair pay. That starts with raising the federal minimum wage to
No one who works full-time in America should have to raise their family in poverty. No one should have to lay awake at night, gripped with anxiety about whether they're going to buy a gallon of gas or a gallon of milk because they can't afford both.
The old conventional wisdom is that the business community thinks the minimum wage is a job-killer and opposes it universally. But in fact, more than three in five small businesses agree with the president that we ought to raise it to
What businesses need more than anything, in an economy driven by consumer demand, are customers. When we give working people a raise, they pump it right back into the economy, spending it on goods and services in their communities. And that helps more businesses grow, which creates more jobs.
We have to do more to address stubborn opportunity gaps that persist. Here's a staggering statistic: in 1950, the share of African-American youth with a job was 65.2 percent; today it's down to 37.3 percent. The President's My Brother's Keeper initiative is designed to address this crisis -- to help young men and boys of color find pathways to success. We must do more to empower populations that haven't been given the opportunity to maximize their economic potential -- not just African-Americans but also veterans, people with disabilities, ex-offenders and more.
The biggest private employer in my home state of
I believe we have some folks from the local Job Corps Center here today, so I want to give a shout-out to that program, run by the
We all benefit when opportunity expands and participation increases, when more people are paying taxes and contributing to the economy. That's just one of the reasons this administration has fought so hard to fix our broken immigration system. It's a moral imperative, but also an economic imperative. Comprehensive immigration reform would reduce the deficit by
Consider the implications for
One way to grow wages and strengthen the middle class is to make sure people have the skills to compete for the jobs of today and tomorrow. That's the guts of our work at the
All over the country, I meet with employers who are ready and eager to grow and expand. But what they need is a steady pipeline of skilled workers that will make that growth possible.
Putting together a skills agenda that serves workers and businesses is a tougher proposition than it used to be. In my parents' generation, you could punch your ticket to the middle class with a 10th grade education. Today, we need to be more aggressive and innovative about workforce development.
Fortunately -- and, let's face it, you can't say this about a lot of issues -- there's some bipartisan consensus in
WIOA reinforces the principles that we are applying to workforce development. First of all, it has to be demand-driven, industry-driven, job-driven. The key is engagement and partnership with the business community. It stands to reason: if you want to create jobs, you've got to talk to the job creators.
Otherwise, you're doing what I call "train and pray" -- train someone to be a widget-maker and then pray that some company out there has widget-making positions available. Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for prayer. But when it comes to workforce development, I'm all about data and empiricism.
We are implementing regional strategies and sector strategies. More than ever before, you see companies in the same industry -- technically competitors -- working together on workforce development because it's to their mutual benefit.
We're making strategic investments in high schools to build the next generation of middle-skill talent, particularly in the STEM fields. I was with Education Secretary
Speaking of which... community colleges are incubators of opportunity and innovation -- the secret sauce of workforce development -- and the partnerships we're building with them are unprecedented. This year, we will make the fourth installment in a nearly
I was with
We are also elevating successful models like apprenticeship -- a time-honored strategy that we are repurposing for the 21st century. We can and must expand apprenticeships beyond construction and other trades it's traditionally associated with. There's no reason this kind of work-based learning can't be successful in IT, health care, energy, cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing.
If apprenticeship works for plumbers and pipefitters, why not for computer programmers? Learn while you earn, training by doing -- the apprenticeship paradigm is really based on common sense. Take it from an attorney. I never did understand the law school model, where they crush your soul with lectures in torts and then just send you out into the world to be a lawyer.
There's a lot of untapped potential here. And the challenge isn't just a policymaking challenge. We have an outreach challenge too. In
So I come to you today with an unrelenting sense of optimism. As I travel the country, I see workers, employers, elected officials, labor unions, the non-profit sector and others rallying around shared values as never before.
Ironically, while there's all this divisiveness in
At the end of the day, it's not a zero-sum game. We really are all in this together. Blowing out your neighbor's candle won't make yours shine any brighter. That's not idealism. That's a pragmatic philosophy for building a 21st century economy that works for everyone. And I look forward in the coming years to building it in partnership with you. Thank you very much.
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