By MARTY WALSH
Department of Labor
On Labor Day we honor the achievements of America’s workers, and in 2022 we have a historic victory to celebrate. Our nation’s working people have come all the way back from the depths of a global pandemic, regaining every job lost and more.
This milestone seemed impossible to reach on Labor Day two years ago. The pandemic was out of control. Millions of Americans were out of work, and economic forecasters said unemployment could remain elevated for years to come.
Some commentators even lost faith in our national work ethic. Even today, some still say that Americans “don’t want to work anymore.”
What nonsense. This sour view of workers seems rooted in the belief that they should be happy with whatever they get. A deadly pandemic exposed the limits – and the disrespect – of that attitude.
The truth is, Americans were eager and ready to get back to work. They just needed the right opportunities, the kind President Biden’s American Rescue Plan delivered. It got vaccines to the people, relief to families, and support for schools and businesses to reopen safely. With these conditions in place, America got back to work – and in a big way.
Since Biden took office, we’ve added 9.5 million jobs to the economy. The unemployment rate has plunged to 3.5%, matching a 53-year low.
Here in Texas, the unemployment rate is 4% as Texans are seizing opportunities like never before.
This job growth has been broad and widely shared. Some said construction would be slow to return. As of July, there were 82,000 more construction jobs than before the pandemic.
Healthcare workers battled bravely through the pandemic and, by this summer, nearly every single job in that vital sector was recovered.
Some said thinking we could restore America’s manufacturing was naïve. Well, manufacturing has more than fully recovered – and with the new CHIPS and Science Law, we are set to lead the world in the industries, and good jobs, of the future.
Ours is a remarkable story of resilience and recovery. I must say, as a former construction worker, I’m not surprised. Working people are proud of their work and who they are. That hasn’t changed.
As I travel the country, including several cities in Texas, as Labor Secretary, I talk to workers and jobseekers. Everywhere I go, Americans want a fair chance to earn decent wages, support their families, make meaningful contributions, and achieve financial security.
Just last week I was in San Antonio with U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro to meet with workers, labor leaders, local industry leaders and city officials. I saw trainees learning advanced skills and being prepared for good jobs and careers by SA Ready to Work, one of the most impressive workforce training programs in the country.
Their work is more timely than ever, because the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is creating thousands of good-paying jobs that don’t need a college degree. America’s workers are doing what they do best – rebuilding their communities, revitalizing our industries and securing a healthy future for our children.
We’re also reducing inequality. In this recovery, wages have gone up the fastest for workers of color and workers with less than a high school diploma. We are determined to continue this progress. To unlock the full potential in our economy, we must empower all of our nation’s workers, especially those who got shut out in the past.
We advance all our goals now from a position of strength. The Inflation Reduction Act will not only lower costs for working families; it’s also going to create good jobs for years to come. America’s workers – diverse and determined – are going to win our clean energy future.
Every recovery has a lesson to teach. Here’s one for this Labor Day: Never bet against America’s workers.
Marty Walsh is the U.S. Secretary of Labor