On Labor Day, we honor the achievements of American workers, and in 2022 we have a historic victory to celebrate. Our nation’s workers have returned from the depths of a global pandemic, regaining every lost job and more.
That 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 high for years.
Some commentators have even lost faith in our national work ethic. Even today, some still say that Americans “don’t want to work anymore”.
What nonsense. This acerbic view of working people seems rooted in the belief that they should be happy with whatever they get. A deadly pandemic has exposed the limits – and the lack of respect – of this attitude.
The truth is that Americans were eager and ready to get back to work. They just needed the right opportunities, like President Biden’s US bailout. He provided vaccines to the population, relieved families and helped schools and businesses to reopen safely. With these conditions in place, America got back to work – and in a big way.
Since President Biden took office, we have added 9.5 million jobs to the economy. The jobless rate plunged to 3.5%, matching a 53-year low.
Here in New Mexico, the unemployment rate is 4.5% as New Mexicans seize opportunities like never before.
This employment growth has been broad and widely shared. Some said construction would be slow to return. In July, there were 82,000 more construction jobs than before the pandemic.
Healthcare workers have fought bravely during the pandemic, and this summer almost all jobs in this vital sector have been recovered.
Some said that thinking we could restore American manufacturing was naive. Well, manufacturing has more than fully recovered – and with new CHIPS and science law, we’re ready to lead the world into the industries and good jobs of the future.
Our story is a remarkable story of resilience and recovery. I have to say, as a former construction worker, I’m not surprised. Workers are proud of their work and who they are. That hasn’t changed.
Traveling the country as Secretary of Labor, I speak to workers and job seekers and everywhere I go, Americans want a fair chance to earn a living wage, to support their families, to bring meaningful contributions and achieve financial security.
Consider the bipartisan Infrastructure Act. It creates thousands of well-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree. American workers are doing what they do best: rebuilding their communities, revitalizing our industries, and ensuring a healthy future for our children.
We are also reducing inequalities. In this recovery, wages rose fastest for workers of color and workers without a high school diploma. We are determined to continue this progress. To unlock the full potential of our economy, we must empower all workers in our country, especially those who have been excluded in the past.
We all advance our goals now from a position of strength. The Inflation Reduction Act will not only reduce costs for working families; it will also create good jobs for years to come. American workers – diverse and determined – will win our clean energy future.
Every recovery has a lesson to teach. Here’s one for this Labor Day: never bet against American workers.