WASHINGTON — Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez issued the following statement about the December 2013 Employment Situation report released today:
"The U.S. economy closed out 2013 by adding 74,000 jobs, bringing the 2013 total to nearly 2.2 million new jobs. With 87,000 new private-sector jobs in December, that makes 8.2 million jobs created by the private sector over the last 46 straight months. The December unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent.
"The economy continues to recover, but we are clearly not out of the woods. Far too many Americans are still struggling to find jobs and secure a foothold in the middle class. Long-term unemployment in particular remains a persistent challenge, stuck at a staggering high: 3.9 million Americans, representing 37.7 percent of all unemployed workers, have been unemployed for at least 27 weeks.
"I've met recently with many of them — hard-working Americans who, despite their most diligent efforts, have just been unable to find work, some for as long as a few years. Their lives are a daily struggle, as they rapidly deplete their savings and face looming foreclosure on their homes. One woman described keeping her thermostat at 58 degrees, wearing a coat and hat around the house, to cut back on heating costs. They are not lazy or complacent; they want nothing more than the dignity of work. But they're caught in a terrifying spiral: the longer you've been out of a job, the harder it is to get a job.
"To give them the immediate relief they so badly need, the first order of business for Congress is to pass an extension of emergency unemployment benefits that expired on Dec. 28 for 1.3 million people. It's the right thing to do to extend a lifeline to fellow Americans down on their luck, and it's the smart thing to do to stimulate the economy.
"But we need to go beyond stopgap measures. The best way to help unemployed Americans is to create jobs and grow the economy at a faster clip. Last month's bipartisan budget deal demonstrated that members of Congress can muster the will to agree on constructive solutions to tough problems. In that same spirit, they must now get to work on the middle-class jobs agenda put forward by President Obama. Let's resolve in the New Year to fix our broken immigration system, invest in education and skills development, rebuild our infrastructure, increase the minimum wage and take other steps to create and expand opportunity for the American people."