WASHINGTON WATCH: Sec. Hilda Solis Breaks Down November’s Jobs Report (VIDEO)

The employment situation improved in November, with 146,000 jobs created last month. The unemployment rate was 7.7 percent, down from last month’s 7.9 percent.

African-American unemployment was 13.2 percent, down by 1.1 percent from last month’s 14.3 percent.

U.S. Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis joined Roland Martin on the set of Washington Watch to discuss the November jobs report.


MR. MARTIN:  Welcome back.

The employment situation improved in November, with 146,000 jobs created last month.  The unemployment rate was 7.7 percent, down from last month’s 7.9 percent.

I wonder what Jack Welch has to say about that.

African-American unemployment was 13.2 percent, down by 1.1 percent from last month’s 14.3 percent.

Here to talk about what it all means, is the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis.

Welcome back, Secretary Solis.

SEC’Y. HILDA SOLIS:  Thank you so much.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.  So, we’re talking about 146,000 jobs.  Black unemployment falls.  So, where were the jobs in terms of what were the particular areas where we’re seeing growth, seeing improvement?

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Well, consumers are feeling confident, so retail went up.  People are buying products.  They’re buying clothing, and that’s good for the holiday season.

MR. MARTIN:  Consumer spending for the American economy –

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — at 70 percent, it drives it.

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Well, it’s helping there, and also in business and professions.  Also in tourism, hotels as well, people are spending money.  And also in areas – well, areas that we need to do better are manufacturing and construction and also in local government.  We lost a lot of jobs in teaching, as you know, over the past few years – which impacts, I think, disproportionately minority communities, particularly the African-American community.

MR. MARTIN:  I saw a report where some of the retail companies – or, not retail companies, but really the home construction companies – your Lowes, your Home Depots – were saying they were seeing growth, which meant that housing starts were doing better –

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — ’cause what they said is that when people begin to take care of their roofs, take care –

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — of their lawns, that means that they plan on staying there.

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  Things are going better, and so you talk about construction.  Home starts have also been –

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — doing well.  Are you seeing that translate into new jobs across the country?

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Not at the pace that we would like to see –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  — but that doesn’t mean we’re going to give up.  And that’s why I think, even after Hurricane Sandy, you’re going to see a lot of need to have highly skilled people in construction, renovation, the cleanup – all that goes into that industry.  So, we’re going to need to have people readily trained and available to go out there and do all that:  home repair, commercial development and also helping expand the small businesses that lost their businesses.

MR. MARTIN:  Where are folks?  One of the things you talk about:  “soft skills”   in terms of what we need in this country.  Explain that – what that actually means.

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Well, it means how you go dressed to an interview, how you conduct yourself, what kinds of questions you might be asked and how you would respond.  And a good test is look in the mirror.  Even record yourself.  How do you wish to view yourself in a presentation?  And have someone else critique you.  Those are things that people don’t get taught anymore in high school, or even in college, so it helps to have someone to serve as kind of a mentor to tell you what the etiquette – the office etiquette – is.

MR. MARTIN:  We talked about the various jobs across the country.  I think last time you were here, we heard this stat:  some 3 million jobs are available in the country –

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — but one of the things that you said is that, look, it’s not like they are in your large cities.  They are dispersed across the country.


MR. MARTIN:  Are you seeing people who are willing to pack up and move for jobs?  Or, are they trying to stay where they are, and they say, “I can’t afford to leave”? And is that also part of the problem?

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  It’s also part of the problem, because a lot of people are saddled with, say, large mortgages.  They have to pay down on that, and if they don’t have a job, they’re stuck.  They can’t readily sell their home –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  — and get what they would like to get out of that –

MR. MARTIN:  And they can’t –

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  — as an asset.

MR. MARTIN:  — afford to have two homes.

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  That’s right.

But the other thing is that, for minorities, I think, we tend to align ourselves to whatever industries are there locally, whether it’s in mining, whether it’s in manufacturing, a different type of manufacturing – refineries.  We need to think about upgrading our skills, and one way to do that is getting involved with community colleges, getting certificates – not necessarily a four-year degree, but a two- —

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  — -year or a one-year degree.  And people are looking – manufacturers are looking for people to work in the automobile industry, biomedical, STEM areas – science, technology, engineering – nursing.  Healthcare continues to grow, but we need people that know how to do computations, that can do math and science; and those things don’t just come after high school.  You need to have another advanced degree.

And we’re providing the resources to do it.  We have a billion dollars that we’re going to give out this next round of funding through the TAA Community College training program.  We want our communities that are impacted heavily by high unemployment to get engaged.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.  Well, Secretary Solis, we appreciate it.  I hope folks follow that advice.

And, again, take care of those soft skills.

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  [Chuckles.]  Okay.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.  I appreciate it.  Thanks a bunch.

SEC’Y. SOLIS:  All right.  Thank you.