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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis

Remarks for Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
New York Times Neediest Cases Fund Dinner
New York, New York
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Good evening everyone.

Thank you Desiree (Dansey) for that warm introduction.

It's a pleasure to be here to celebrate the New York Times' 99th Anniversary of the Neediest Cases Fund.

But I have to admit, I was holding out, hoping to be your Centennial keynote, but I guess being the 99th will just have to do!

But all joking aside, it's truly an honor to be here tonight.

The Neediest Cases fund began because of a chance encounter Adolph Ochs had with a man on Christmas day in 1911.

The former publisher met a man who was homeless and unemployed.

As the story goes, Mr. Ochs gave the man a few dollars, handed him his card, and told him to come see him if he wanted a job.

That experience left him to ponder what the benefit of charity and goodwill means and the role it can play in helping the neediest in our communities.

In almost a century, the Neediest Cases fund has raised 250 million dollars and has transformed the lives of countless New Yorkers.

From providing much needed after-school programs to advocacy on behalf of seniors and the homeless, the organizations that you support and are here today, serve people of all ages and backgrounds in the metropolitan area.

The Neediest Cases Fund also goes to show the power that newspapers have had and continue to have in our lives by shaping public opinion and shedding light on the issues that impact our communities.

And the New York Times continues that tradition by putting forth Adolph Ox's call to service by helping support these community organizations and in the process, building better communities and creating unique opportunities for public engagement.

I'm here tonight to commend those efforts, to offer some insight on the progress of our recovery, and to connect the dots between the noble goals of this fund and the initiatives of the Labor Department and the Obama Administration.

The work and organizations that this fund helps to support is needed now more than ever because American families are facing difficult economic times.

You see, I have the task of reporting the unemployment numbers on the first Friday of every month.

For the first year, it wasn't very much fun.

There were several months that our economy lost hundreds of thousands of jobs...millions by the end of the year.

More and more Americans were finding it difficult to support their families, to pay their mortgage, and plan for retirement.

Many economists, journalists, and every day Americans were wondering if we were going to recover from the economic disaster that we were facing.

Some pundits were calling this a jobless recovery... which is the theme of what I was asked to talk about today.

I have to be honest, I respectfully disagree that we are in jobless recovery.

Now, I have learned a few things as a former member of Congress and as Labor Secretary when it comes to dealing with media.

I know the first rule of journalism is to never bury your lead.

Well, I'm probably going to shock some of you, because the lead of a jobless recovery is one that I don't subscribe to.

So, I'm here to write a new lead.

Last year on November 7th, the New York Times wrote an editorial about the Jobless Recovery.

The first paragraph read — "If you are looking for an economic recovery you can believe in, the October employment report is not for you."

I would say that there are many people that would have agreed with that statement because we had lost 262,000 jobs that month, but we had returned to growth.

The editorial also called for the Obama Administration to put some of its bold ideas for stimulating the economy and to create jobs to work.

Well, just last week I reported that our economy added 151,000 jobs in October, doubling the expected increase.

Not only was the October job growth better than expected, but August and September were better than previously thought.

Employment growth over those two months was revised up by a total of 110,000 jobs.

As a result, private sector job growth has totaled more than 1.1 million jobs this year, or about 100,000 a month on average.

The truth is, in every recession we return to growth first and the jobs follow.

And in this recovery jobs have followed much faster than in past recoveries.

In the Bush recession of 2001 the country continued to lose jobs for almost two years after economic growth had returned.

This recession ended in June 2009, and unemployment peaked at 10.1 percent in October of 2009... today the unemployment rate is at 9.6%

Economic growth shows signs of increasing and so does job growth.

In this recovery jobs are returning along with economic growth.

So, this is far from a jobless recovery.

It is a fact that this Administration's policies have helped shave half a point off the jobless rate since October as job growth resumed.

And GDP has grown 3.1% over the past 4 quarters.

While we are encouraged by these signs, we recognize that we have much more work to do.

And one of the signs that is most encouraging is that the job growth this year has been sustained and well balanced through a variety of business sectors.

For example, nearly 60% of industries had more jobs on their payrolls than a year ago, the highest percentage since 2007.

Likewise, about 60% of manufacturing industries have added jobs over the year, the highest percentage since 1998.

And leading up to the jobs report last week we learned that growth in the manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors accelerated in October.

So, new orders in both sectors came in at an even faster pace in October than in the summer, which is a positive sign for growth in the coming months.

While we are encouraged about the recovery of our economy, the fact is it doesn't make a difference if you're still one of the millions of people who are looking for work.

And the President and I won't be satisfied until everybody who is looking for a job can find one.

So we've got to keep fighting for every job, for every new business, for every opportunity to get this economy moving.

And just as we passed a small business jobs bill based on ideas from both parties and the private sector, we'll continue to be open to any idea, any proposal, any way we can get the economy growing faster so that people who need work can find it faster.

The President has said this and I am saying this.

Our number one priority is creating jobs!

We need sustained strong job growth, and the growth that we have had for the last 10 months shows that we clearly are taking steps in that direction.

And I have seen the first-hand that our policies are working.

I have traveled across this country and I have met with workers and their families.

The same kinds of people you see every day.

These are hard-working people, who are not looking for pity or for a hand-out.

They are looking for help, leadership, and more than anything an opportunity to provide for their families.

I have met with auto workers, police officers, teachers, labor leaders, and faith leaders.

I have met with veterans, farmworkers, university presidents, and government officials.

I have met with people who work in offices and the people who clean them at night.

And every one of them inspires me.

Every one of them reminds me that when America faces tough times, we are at our best.

I met a young man in New Orleans named Guiseppe Cage who was a recent graduate of our Edison Job Corps program.

Armed with certificates in nursing, emergency training and first responder skills, Mr. Cage was hired by American Medical Response, a large medical transportation provider and was helping clean-up workers in the gulf by providing medical assistance.

Before Job Corps he didn't know what he wanted to do with his life.

He is now on his way to a career in cardiology.

I also met Valda Lyon, who at 72 years old went back to work and sharpen her skills as a nurse.

Thanks to our Senior Community Service Employment Program funding, we helped Valda re-enter the work force and gain her financial independence.

And I met Lisa Bolling, who is from New York and a veteran of the Air Force.

After serving her country she fell on tough times and was homeless.

She attended workshops at our Veterans Employment and Training Service and our Women's Bureau.

She now has a degree in criminal justice and is working as a member of the Washington, D.C. Department of Transportation.

Like all of you, the Labor Department is here to help workers and their families, not only survive, but thrive in this 21st century economy.

And while these stories are meant to inspire, they are also a constant reminder of the work that still needs to be done.

With millions of Americans still looking for work, now is not the time to cut key safety net programs like Unemployment Insurance.

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation is set to expire at the end of this month.

If that happens, 2 million people will lose benefits prematurely in December and 6 million by the end of next year.

While we are on the path of job creation, we cannot forget the millions of Americans, who through no fault of their own, are still unemployed and looking for work.

Adolph Ochs certainly wouldn't have and neither should we.

You see, he believed — like I do — that everyone deserves a shot.

Safety-net programs like the Unemployment Insurance program have long been known to be a cost-effective way of keeping families afloat during difficult economic periods, while also serving to boost the overall economy.

A recent Census Bureau study on poverty linked the expansion of unemployment benefits in the Recovery Act to keeping 3.3 million people, including 1 million children out of poverty.

And with nearly 5 job seekers for every job opening, many people will necessarily have to rely on the Unemployment Insurance system until the economy returns to pre-recession levels.

Unemployment insurance not only protects those who have lost their jobs, but it protects the business and employees whose customers have lost their jobs.

A recent independent study we commissioned showed us that millions of jobs were saved in this recession and we returned to economic growth faster because those who lost their job were able to keep purchasing their necessities.

We should not allow Americans to suffer even though they have done nothing wrong.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'what are you doing for others?'"

I ask myself this question everyday.

Because while it's easy to get caught up in the numbers and all the data, it's never easy to forget the faces and the stories of the people I serve — I know them all too well.

They are the faces and stories of the people that raised me and they are my reminder of why I do what I do — what we ALL do - for those most in need.

Because a job is more than just a paycheck.

It's about having dignity in the work that you do.

It's about being respected for the work you do.

And it's about the value and feeling of accomplishment in the work you do.

Everyone wants to contribute in their own way.

Everyone wants to feel that they are respected.

And everyone wants to provide for their family.

I can assure you... no, I promise you... we are doing this work together.

We are all in this together.

That is the commitment that the President has made.

That is the commitment that I have made.

And I know that this commitment is one all of you have made.

Thank you for your generosity.

And thank you for doing your part to making our country the beacon of hope that has inspired so many in our history.