Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis Reports Good News on October Employment Figures

Job Fair
Line at a job fair in New York, October 2011

On November 4, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis issued the following statement on the October 2011 Employment Situation report:

“Our nation’s labor market posted stable growth in the month of October. The economy added 104,000 private sector jobs last month, and we also added 102,000 more jobs than had previously been reported in August and September. The unemployment rate dropped to 9 percent, its lowest level in six months.”

One issue that Solis emphasized was the improving situation of the “long-term unemployed” – those workers who have been without work for 27 weeks or longer.  The number of Americans in this category fell by 366,000 in October, which represents the biggest decline since 1948. Further good news came with the improved employment figures for African-Americans: unemployment in this demographic fell a full percentage point to 15.1 percent, its lowest level since August 2009.

The U.S. created 2.8 million jobs over 20 consecutive months of private sector growth, which includes one-million-plus jobs this year alone.  Third-quarter GDP growth stood at 2.5 percent, signaling the most rapid rate of improvement in over a year — and almost twice that of the previous quarter.  As Solis noted, employers reported “significantly fewer layoffs in October.”  “Consumer and business spending are both up, reflecting Americans’ increased confidence in our recovery progress,” she said.

Yet for many Americans, this good news seems wholly unrelated to their own circumstances. Workers in government and construction, in particular, continue to suffer high job losses.  As Solis pointed out, both of these are areas where passage of the American Jobs Act would have a direct and immediate effect on job creation. “Overall, non-farm payroll added 80,000 jobs in October, reflecting the loss of 24,000 government jobs and 20,000 jobs in construction,” she stated.  “Last week, the Senate voted down provisions of the American Jobs Act that would have helped keep teachers, police officers and firefighters on the job. This week, the Senate voted down a common-sense infrastructure bill that would have put hundreds of thousands of construction workers back on the job. We cannot allow political partisanship to hamper the vital functions of our communities.”

Despite the fact that many Americans are disappointed in the pace of the recovery, and an overwhelming majority continue to report that the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction, Solis maintains that “the policies [the Obama] administration has pursued have added jobs back into the economy,” and that the main problem lies with the “failure of Congress to pass legislation to put Americans back to work. However, even in the absence of action by Congress, job growth since April has averaged 90,000 jobs, compared to the 11,000 monthly average during the Bush administration.”

Emery Reddy