Labor Secretary Optimistic
Will the President’s Recovery Act help put more people to work?
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
If you know someone who is out of a job, that is no surprise. The unemployment rate is the highest it has been in 26 years, according to Department of Labor (DOL) figures released in November. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis told the Scholastic Kids Press Corps in a recent interview that President Barack Obama has already begun to tackle that 10.2 percent rate of unemployment.
In November, the President signed legislation expanding unemployment benefits and providing a tax benefit for struggling businesses. Unemployment benefits pay people who have been laid off while they are looking for new jobs.
"By helping struggling families pay for groceries and other household needs, economists say that extended unemployment insurance benefits are one of the best ways to stimulate economic activity," Solis said.
She pointed to President Obama's $7 billion Recovery Act, which includes incentives for states to extend unemployment payments to part-time workers and people upgrading their job market skills through further training and education.
"These efforts have not only strengthened the safety net," she said, "but make it possible for unemployment insurance to be a stepping stone to a better future for millions of Americans."
A Los Angeles native, Solis is the first Hispanic-American woman in history to serve at the cabinet level. Her job in the DOL is to keep track of the American work force and to enforce laws and regulations affecting everyday employees. The DOL monitors and improves working conditions, protects pensions and other benefits, and tracks economic factors that affect workers.
The Secretary's job may currently be one of the toughest in the nation as unemployment rates continue to rise. Solis, however, seems to be confident about the future of jobs and the overall economy. She told the Scholastic Kids Press Corps that the quickest way to regain economic stability in our country is to put more people to work.
"People need to have a positive message and still look for jobs," said Solis, pointing out that the government is investing more than $58 million in grants to encourage green jobs among the country. She says these environmentally-friendly jobs could be the path to success for the country’s economy.
Education is another key to economic stability, she told this reporter.
"The more education you have, the more valuable you are," Solis said. "Today, education is just about essential to any form of success."
According to a recent study, someone with a college degree will earn an average of $32,000 a year. That's $13,000 more than what someone with only a high school diploma will earn.
Attending college can be a major challenge, especially in a down economy, but it is one that Solis understands on a personal level. The child of two Latin American immigrant parents, she grew up partially raising her siblings while attending school. She obtained her college degree with the help of government grants and part-time jobs. But most of all, her inspiring job as U.S. Secretary of Labor proves that obtaining that dream job is always possible.
"Keep dreaming your dreams," Solis said. "Economists predict that the unemployment rate may still increase, but eventually, we believe, an economic recovery is very near."
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