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WASHINGTON WATCH: Sec. Hilda Solis Discusses The April Jobs Report And New Summer Jobs Program (VIDEO)

The April jobs report came out on Friday, and the news was mixed. There were 130,000 private-sector jobs created last month, below expectations, but the overall unemployment rate dropped one tenth of 1 percent, to 8.1 percent. Black unemployment dropped one whole percentage point, from 14 to 13 percent. It’s down from over 16 percent a year ago.

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis joined Roland Martin on the set of Washington Watch to discuss the new jobs report and a new summer jobs program.

MR. MARTIN: … the jobs report came out on Friday, and the news was mixed. There were 130,000 private-sector jobs created last month, below expectations, but the overall unemployment rate dropped one tenth of 1 percent, to 8.1 percent. Black unemployment dropped one whole percentage point, from 14 to 13 percent. It’s down from over 16 percent a year ago.

Here to discuss that, as well as a new summer jobs program, is the Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis.

Welcome back to the show.

SEC’Y. HILDA SOLIS: How are you doing, Martin?

MR. MARTIN: Doin’ great.

SEC’Y. SOLIS: Good.

MR. MARTIN: It’s interesting when you hear critics say disappointing jobs report. The expectation was — what – 160,000 jobs, but we saw 130,000; but, really, 115,000 total, because we had a loss of government jobs.

SEC’Y. SOLIS: Right. That’s correct, but I would tell you that over the last four months, each month we’ve added 207,000 jobs. That’s a pretty good job number. It’s not where we need to be, but it’s better than what folks are – have – have already commented on. And just look back 26 months: 4.3 million private-sector jobs. We inherited this mess. We came in losing 8 million jobs.

MR. MARTIN: Now, where are we getting the jobs? Typically, they’ve been in healthcare. Manufacturing has been also –

SEC’Y. SOLIS: Right.

MR. MARTIN: — surprisingly good.

SEC’Y. SOLIS: Mining.

MR. MARTIN: So, where are we now?

SEC’Y. SOLIS: We’re getting jobs in mining. We’re also getting jobs in manufacturing, so the automobile industry’s coming back. We’re seeing people also in business and professions, so we’re looking at architects, engineers, accountants – things of that nature. These are good-paying jobs, and I really do believe that the trajectory we’re on is a good one, but we need to keep our eye on the ball and make sure that we make these – and continue to make these investments. One of the things the President talks about is making sure we get this transportation infrastructure bill through, that’ll put millions of people back to work.

MR. MARTIN: Now, when you talk about that particular bill there, how many jobs are we talking about, because when we talk about rebuilding – rebuilding this country – roads and bridges –

SEC’Y. SOLIS: Right.

MR. MARTIN: — is it just construction jobs? Or, is it also the ancillary jobs as well?

SEC’Y. SOLIS: It’s all the ancillary jobs. It’s the accountants. It’s the business people that make their industries around these project sites. So, it’s the mom-and-pop donut shop. It’s also the restaurants, the dry cleaner. It’s also production and – and delivery services, transportation. So, it’s a whole slew of things that help to create a continued growth for a longer period of time, and so it isn’t just a one-year, [one-]shot deal. It will go on over time.

MR. MARTIN: How do you address the critics who say that the reason the unemployment rate went down is because so many Americans left the labor market?

SEC’Y. SOLIS: Well, to be honest, when you look back at what has happened – and you mentioned it earlier. Eight months ago, we were at 9.1 percent. Now, we’re at 8.1 percent. The reason why is because people are finding jobs. We also have some changes and challenges in the demographic population. [We’ve] got a lot of younger people that are staying in school longer. They’re going into education at – at a higher level, community colleges and four-year universities. You also have the baby boomer generation that also is leaving the job force, and they have different things that they’re doing. So, that’s what’s occurring in the job market.

MR. MARTIN: Last year, we talked on this show with regards to the Republicans removing the money out of the budget for summer jobs, and it really left you and the Administration scrambling to find jobs for young folks.

This week, you announced a huge initiative, the adding of thousands of jobs for summer jobs for young folks. Talk about –

SEC’Y. SOLIS: Right.

MR. MARTIN: — that.

SEC’Y. SOLIS: Well, it’s important for us to get these young people to work, because many of them are experiencing levels of 16 percent unemployment, and higher for African-American[s] and Latino[s]; and their first job is one that is memorable. It’s going to help put them on that career path, and so the President and our efforts in the cabinet have been to create jobs through private partnerships right now and nonprofits. So, there’s no federal money, because the Congress didn’t support that. So, we’re asking for the development and creation of jobs that are coming from the outside economy, from – from, you know, employers. And we have Jamba Juice, for example; UPS; Bank of America; Wells Fargo. They’re all putting up slots. We have about 90,000 that are paid and about another 150 or so that are given as credit or internships, [mentorships].

But we want people to get involved, because the real problem, the crux, is getting these young people to do something; to stay out of trouble; get into education; and have that paycheck, if possible, to help themselves out.

MR. MARTIN: How do folks access those jobs? Are they going directly to the companies? Are they going to your website? How –

SEC’Y. SOLIS: They’re going –

MR. MARTIN: — do they find out?

SEC’Y. SOLIS: — they’re going to our website. So, it’s [dol.gov/summerjobs]. That’s all they need to do. They can find out where the job is, find out the location in their community, and employers can go online and list their jobs. We’ll do it for them free.

MR. MARTIN: Over the next several months, obviously, we’re going to hear a lot of back and forth during the campaign from Mitt Romney, who is the – pretty much the presumptive GOP nominee, and also Pres. Obama when it comes to the issue of jobs. The American people also, when you look at the polling data – it also comes down to do they feel positive in terms of the direction that we are going. Do you believe by November, we will see unemployment below 8 percent?

SEC’Y. SOLIS: I don’t have a crystal ball, Roland, so I’m not going to go there; but I will tell you if we continue on the path that we’re on, I – I know that we’re going to be able to add more jobs. And I can say that, because I look back at the 26-year –

-month period, and we’ve added 4.2 million jobs, and it’s [been] done because the President has made some very decisive moves to make sure that we make investments and we continue to help small business, to cut their taxes, give middle-class households a tax break, and make investments in education and help young people find jobs and get a good education. If they need financial aid, they can get it and apply for it.

MR. MARTIN: I’m glad you mentioned education, because a lot of folks out there – they go to school, and they’re majoring in things that they say, “Hey, I love this,” but the jobs may not be there. And so if somebody’s watching this, and they are a high school junior, or high school senior – let’s say they’re in college, or even if they’re looking to be retrained, what should be the areas they should be focusing on? Where – where are our greatest needs, really –

SEC’Y. SOLIS: Right.

MR. MARTIN: — over the next five years or so, that we’re going to need people in these jobs?

SEC’Y. SOLIS: It’s real easy. It’s called “STEM,” science, technology, engineering and math. All those areas, if we get our young people to focus in on those particular issue areas, then we’ll be able to be better served, we’re going to be competitive, and we won’t have to go abroad to Indian, or China, or Brazil. We’ll have our own homegrown scientists, mathematicians and doctors – physicians and IT techies that’ll all be homegrown here.

MR. MARTIN: Well, that – that’s if we don’t see cuts to Pell Grants and things along those lines –

SEC’Y. SOLIS: Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN: — to pay for it.

SEC’Y. SOLIS: And people need to know that.

MR. MARTIN: All right. Secretary Solis, we appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

SEC’Y. SOLIS: Thank you.

MR. MARTIN: All right.

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