WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez issued the following statement about the February 2016 Employment Situation report released today:
“February’s report demonstrates the nation’s continued economic vitality, with the addition of 242,000 new jobs. The longest recorded streak of private-sector job growth now stands at six full years, 72 consecutive months, during which private employers have created 14.3 million jobs. The unemployment rate held steady at 4.9 percent, the first time it has been below 5 percent for two months in a row since the fall of 2007. The labor force participation rate and the employment-population ratio both edged up, with the latter reaching its highest level in nearly seven years.
“Other previously-reported economic indicators are encouraging as well. There are 5.6 million job openings as of the end of December – that’s the second most since we started collecting that data. Initial unemployment insurance claims haven’t been this consistently low in more than 42 years. In fact, for a full year now – 52 straight weeks – they have been at or under 300,000, compared to an average of more than 600,000 in early 2009.
“Also, it turns out the Affordable Care Act isn’t a job killer after all. The six years since the passage of this law have been six years of robust economic growth, at the same time that, according to new estimates, 20 million people have been able to get the health insurance coverage they need.
“But as much as we have done to climb our way out of the depths of the Great Recession, there are still challenges to meet, opportunity gaps to close, and inequalities to address. The rising tide is lifting the yachts, but too many of the smaller boats are still taking on water. Average hourly earnings declined in February; and despite modest growth of 2.2 percent over the last year, there is a lot of ground to make up. Wage growth remains the unfinished business of this recovery – and of the last four decades. Too many working families, despite working harder than ever, aren’t seeing the results in their paychecks and pocketbooks.
“The Obama Administration, despite little cooperation from the majority in Congress, is doing everything in our power to expand opportunity and create an economy that works for everyone. We continue fighting for investments in infrastructure, clean energy and education. We continue calling for an increase in the national minimum wage, while supporting states and localities that are raising their own wage floors. Our proposed Labor Department Fiscal Year 2017 budget includes, among many other things, smart investments in proven workforce development strategies like apprenticeship. It would provide stronger services and open doors of opportunity to laid-off workers, at-risk youth, veterans and others.
“We are both proud of how far the economy has come and eager to make continued progress. In the remaining 10-and-a-half months of this administration – the 322 days until ‘the weekend’ – we will do all we can to help all our people enjoy the fruits of this recovery, to create the shared prosperity America needs and deserves.”