Sec. Hilda Solis Discusses The Improving Job Market, Summer Jobs Program, Black Unemployment Rate (VIDEO)

212,000 private-sector jobs created in December, and the unemployment rate ticked down to 8.5 percent. Black unemployment was 15.8 percent, up from 15.5 percent. This week, the President announced a plan to create thousands of new jobs for low-income youth in 2012.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis joined Roland Martin on Washington Watch to discuss the improving jobs market, President Obama’s summer jobs program and the African-American unemployment rate.

MR. MARTIN: … it is a happy New Year for some folks looking for work, whether it’s Republicans trying to get Pres. Obama’s job in the White House – and we’ll have more on that later – or whether it’s just plain folks trying to get a job to feed their families.  There were 212,000 private-sector jobs created in December, and the unemployment rate ticked down to 8.5 percent.  Black unemployment was 15.8 percent, up from 15.5 percent.

This week, the President announced a plan to create thousands of new jobs for low-income youth in 2012.  Here to discuss that promise and the improving jobs market is the U.S. Labor Secretary.

Hilda Solis, welcome back to “Washington Watch.”

SEC’Y HILDA SOLIS:  Thank you.  Good to see you, Roland.

MR. MARTIN:  It’s always a good day for you, a good month for you ,when you have an increase of jobs

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  Where did we see the growth in the last month?

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  I would say that it’s almost across the board, with the exception of local government.  We continue to see that decline, but I would say that this is a steady, firm growth that we’ve seen.  In the last four months alone, 170,000, on average, private-sector jobs.; and last year alone, two poi- — 2 million jobs – 2 million jobs created, private-sector.  And when this president took over this position, I remember sitting here, and we were losing 800,000 jobs a month.  So, yes, it’s taken some time, but we are on a road to recovery.  I’ve been telling people today that the patient has taken some medicine.  The patient is now up and taking slow steps, but we still have a ways to go.

MR. MARTIN:  Now, when you look at Republicans on the campaign trail, they’re always talking about manufacturing jobs in this country –

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — but also what we also see is that healthcare is also a big driver.  How do we do those two areas?

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Actually, with respect to manufacturing, 225,000 jobs [were] created this last year, this last month alone, 23,000.  We saw an uptick in mining, in refineries and all those industries.  We also saw 50,000 jobs in transportation and warehousing; and that is also adjusted for, you know, the season because, you know, you think about people shipping things for the holidays –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  — but it’s already been seasonally adjusted.  And that tells me that people are starting to do more on the Internet, and they’re actually increasing their demand, and consumption is up.  So, consumers are feeling good, businesses are hiring more people, and we’re seeing that there’s actually a lowering of temporary workers – and we’re seeing more full-time employment.

MR. MARTIN:  Is it important – and it’s some- — something I’ve been stressing for the longest – that people understand that it is going to take us a significant amount of time to get out of the rut that we were in.  Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said a couple of years ago – he said, look, five years.  That’s how long it’s going to take –

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — and we have to think that way versus always waiting for that magic bullet every month.

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Well, I’ve only been here, now, for – [it’s] going to be three years, and I have seen some significant change, but it has taken time because we needed help from the Congress.  And if the Congress refuses to work with us, then we’re going to go back the other way.  We’re going to see an increase in unemployment.  We still have unfinished business.  We need that unemployment insurance – emergency unemployment insurance extended and also the payroll tax [cut].  In addition, we know that we’re suffering from construction and housing.  If we put money in an infrastructure bank and start putting that out, we’ll put those people back to work. Teachers are using their jobs.  African-American teachers in the public sector [are] losing jobs.  One way to rectify that is help with the American Jobs Act, by putting money in there and hiring up close to 280,000 people that can help serve in the public sector.

MR. MARTIN:  Last year, we talked about summer jobs, and funds were cut out of the budget.  And so the President announces this plan already, and so you’re getting a head start on those –

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — summer jobs.  Tell us about this particular program –

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — how many jobs we’re talking about, what kind of jobs we’re talking about.

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Well, we’re – what we’re talking about is – because the Congress didn’t move on the American Jobs Act by helping to fund summer – summer jobs like they did in the recovery program, we’re talking about a self-initiated program.  So, the President is challenging corporations and businesses to step up to the plate.  We already have 170,000 commitments to hire up people, to put them in slots; but that isn’t enough.  Our goal is 250, if not more.  My hope is we can get many, many more.  With him helping to amplify this, we know that we can do better.

But we keep the pressure on, still, because we think that the American Jobs Act, that put in $1.5 billion, is still worthwhile – because we know that unemployment with youth is 16 percent, and it’s higher for different subgroups:  African-American[s], Latino[s] and Native American[s].

MR. MARTIN:  Now, whe- — when you talk about these kind[s] of jobs, you have college students who’re also saying, “Look,” you know, “we’re out here,” you know, “taking out loans, getting a” – “getting” –

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — “an education, not having those jobs available for us when we actually get out.”  And so what is the outlook in terms of for those folks who’re graduating come May?  Come the end of summer?

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Well, if we can continue to see more job growth overall, we’re going to see more opportunities for people to move up.  And one of the things we’re finding is that, yes, there are certain groups that, with higher education in certain fields, aren’t finding jobs; but those that are – that are engineers or computer scientists – IT folks or whatever – those – those folks are finding employment; it’s a little bit easier.  But we know that people need to have the right credentials and training, so we’re urging people while – while they’re working summer employment, “Continue with that education component,” and that’s why the President has also brought in the na- — the national service component, America Job Corps, to help give people that experience, ’cause they need that on their resumé.

MR. MARTIN:  You have 170,000 commitments.  You want a quarter of a million or more, and so how will these jobs be dispersed?  Will it be up to the companies?  Are folks reaching out to your website to put their applications in?  What’s –


MR. MARTIN:  — that process?

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  We have a centralized format that we’re developing right now that’ll go through the Department of Labor, so it’ll be jobs.  And employers can go online so they can list jobs, if they have openings, and they can also – we can also then have the public – we can have young people get on board, find out where the job is in their location and then go immediately to that – to that position.

MR. MARTIN:  When we talk about the unemployment numbers, what – what does it say about people leaving the labor market?

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  You know, I get asked that question a lot, but I would tell you that we’re actually seeing more people coming back into the labor market, and what keeps them attached also is that those people that haven’t found a job, and they’re drawing down unemployment insurance – it keeps them attached.  So, we want that to continue.  We want them to also continue with the training.  And we’re retrofitting, and we are reorganizing our own workforce investment program so that we’re more competitive, and we’re really working with businesses, saying, “What is it that you need?”  “What’s the kind of curriculum we have to teach in the community colleges?”  “What kind of training, what kind of certificate is needed so you can hire up in those 3 million jobs that are out there right now that aren’t being filled?”

MR. MARTIN:  What is on the horizon that Congress should be moving on that would directly impact jobs in the country?

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  The American Jobs Pa- — Act itself, I think.  The President said that will help to put at least a – a million, if not more, people back to work; and we know that extension of the unemployment insurance, the payroll tax [cut], the summer youth program – all these things will help — anc[?] the infrastructure bank – to help out with – that will put a lot of construction people back.  Also, the private sector.  We need our teachers there.  We need our firefighters.  We need people to – to help us out in our local communities.  We know states are suffering.  They don’t have the revenue, so they have to look for leadership.  They look to the federal government – not for [an] entire bailout, but for assistance, and so that we can help to get those sails going in the right direction.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.  Secretary Solis, always a pleasure having you on.

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Thank you.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.  Thanks a bunch.

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  All right.