Secretary Tom Perez: "On Labor Day"


This afternoon, Labor Secretary Tom Perez sent the message below to the White House email list, asking people to add their name in support of raising the federal minimum wage.

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Hi, everyone --

This Labor Day, I'm thinking about Austraberta.

I had breakfast at Austraberta Rodriguez's home in Houston two weeks ago. She's worked as a janitor for more than 30 years, and for most of that time, her wages put her below the poverty level. Every cent she's earned has gone toward providing the basics for her children and grandchildren. Today, she's still earning the minimum wage -- which, in Texas, is just $7.25 an hour.

Austraberta Rodriguez with her grandchildren

Austraberta told me over breakfast that a national minimum wage increase would mean more bread for her family. She said a few more dollars an hour would be "incredible." That raise wouldn't just go toward making Austraberta's life a little better. It would improve the odds for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren too.

Austraberta's struggle is our struggle. On Labor Day, we celebrate all workers nationwide who contribute to our strength and prosperity. Because whether you made the burger or someone served it to you, whether you're driving the bus or riding on it, whether you're sweeping the floor or working in the clean office, you have a part to pla​y.

So today, if you're ready for a country that does right by Austraberta and the nearly 28 million Americans who stand to benefit from a $10.10 minimum wage, then honor them by adding your name here.

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Long-Term Unemployment Is Falling, but Still Work to Do


The recent labor market data have been encouraging. Businesses have now added nearly 10 million jobs over 53 straight months of job growth, the longest streak on record. Total job gains have exceeded 200,000 in each of the last six months, the first time that has happened since 1997. And the unemployment rate has fallen rapidly since mid-2013 to reach 6.2 percent in July, 1.1 percentage point less than a year ago.

Of particular note, much of the decline in the unemployment rate has come as a result of declines in long-term unemployment. In fact, falling long-term unemployment accounts for more than 60 percent of the drop in the overall unemployment rate in the last 12 months. This is a disproportionately large share given that one-third of the jobless are long-term unemployed.

The long-term unemployment rate has been cut by more than half from a peak of 4.4 percent in April 2010 — the highest ever recorded — to 2.0 percent in July 2014. Of that 2.4 percentage point decline, 0.7 percentage point has happened since last July, an even larger decline than seen with the short-term unemployment rate. Nevertheless, because the long-term unemployment rate more than quadrupled as a result of the recession, the declines seen recently are still not yet sufficient to return long-term unemployment to pre-recession levels.  

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Weekly Address: This Labor Day, Let’s Talk About the Minimum Wage

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Aug. 29, 2014.

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Aug. 29, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

In this week’s address, the President wished Americans a happy Labor Day weekend, highlighted the important economic progress we’ve made, and reaffirmed his commitment to accelerate our progress and ensure that our growing economy fuels a strong middle class.

To do this, the President reiterated that Congress should do right by hardworking Americans across the country and raise the minimum wage, and he praised the 13 states and Washington, D.C. as well as employers large and small who have heeded his call and taken action to provide their citizens and employees a fair wage.

The President underscored that America built the world’s greatest middle class by making sure that everyone who’s willing to work hard and play by the rules can get ahead – an economic patriotism worth remembering this Labor Day, and every day.

Transcript | mp4 | mp3

Moving Forward on International Regulatory Cooperation


As part of President Obama’s effort to achieve smarter and more effective approaches to international regulation, today I am pleased to announce the release of the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) Joint Forward Plan. The Forward Plan represents a significant pivot point for our regulatory cooperation relationships with Canada, and outlines new federal agency-level partnership arrangements to help institutionalize the way our regulators work together. 

The Forward Plan will remove duplicative requirements, develop common standards, and identify potential areas where future regulation may unnecessarily differ. This kind of international cooperation on regulations between the United States and Canada will help eliminate barriers to doing business in the United States or with U.S. companies, grow the economy, and create jobs.

Regulatory cooperation has to mean more than just “aligning” specific rules across the border; such a rule-by-rule approach is neither practical nor scalable enough to meet our ever-changing regulatory environments. We need to think more broadly and creatively on how to build cooperative frameworks to achieve our economic and regulatory policy goals in a more dynamic manner.

That is why the Forward Plan identifies 24 areas of cooperation that the United States and Canada will work together to implement over the next three to five years in order to modernize our thinking around international regulatory cooperation and develop a toolbox of strategies to address international regulatory issues as they arise. 

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Chart of the Week: Where We Stand on Equal Pay for Equal Work


Ninety-four years ago this week, American women officially won the right to vote when the United States certified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The fight to secure that intrinsic right took generations, and nearly 100 years later, women continue to face persistent inequality and discrimination.

In 2014, women are still fighting to make the principle of equal pay for equal work a reality. Though more and more women are becoming the primary breadwinners in their families, they continue to make less than their male counterparts at all income levels -- a gender pay gap that only widens as people get older.

In fact, women who enter the workforce after graduating college are paid less in almost every field of study:

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Second Estimate of GDP for the Second Quarter of 2014


Today’s revision affirms that economic growth in the second quarter was strong, consistent with the recent string of solid job growth and improvements in other economic indicators. But there's more work that needs to be done to build on this momentum. That is why the President continues to act on his own to facilitate investment in American manufacturing, energy, and infrastructure, as well as take steps to improve the financial security of working families.


1. Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased 4.2 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter of 2014, according to the second estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The strong second-quarter growth represents a rebound from a first-quarter decline in GDP that largely reflected transitory factors like unusually severe winter weather and a sharp slowdown in inventory investment. Growth in consumer spending and business investment picked up in the second quarter, and residential investment increased following two straight quarters of decline. Additionally, state and local government spending grew at the fastest quarterly rate in five years. However, net exports subtracted from overall GDP growth, as imports grew faster than exports. Real gross domestic income (GDI), an alternative measure of the overall size of the economy, was up 4.7 percent in Q2.

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Thailand expects trade surplus with Burma by 2016, says bank exec


Thailand expects to have a bilateral trade surplus with Burma by 2016, fuelled by solid economic and cross-border trade growth, says a senior executive of Bangkok Bank (BBL).

Executive vice-president Kobsak Pootrakool said the company forecasts increasing demand for Thai products from neighbouring countries thanks to improving economic sentiment.

Thailand recorded a first-half trade deficit of 40 billion baht (US$1.33 billion) from its neighbours, but the figure is expected to dip to 20 billion baht by the end of this year, he said.

There is increasing demand for Thai goods in Burma, especially fuel oil, food and beverages, textiles, electronic equipment, steel and vehicles.

In the past several years, Thailand recorded a trade deficit of 70 billion baht with neighbouring countries, mainly from natural gas imports. Thailand imports around 100 billion baht worth of natural gas from Burma per year, accounting for 94 percent of the country’s total, Mr Kobsak told a seminar yesterday entitled “A Trusted Partner and Reliable Close Friend for the AEC”.

But Thailand has lowered its trade deficit with Burma in recent years, helped by strong growth of cross-border trade at 17 percent average annual growth, he said.

Bilateral trade between Thailand and Burma is worth 200 billion baht a year, making it the second-largest trade value among Thailand’s ASEAN partners behind Malaysia.

Burma’s economy is projected to grow by 7.5 percent this year, rising to an annual average of 10 percent over the next five years, said Mr Kobsak.

“This growth will further stimulate our bilateral trade volume,” he said, adding border trade makes up 80 percent of total trade between the two countries.

Mr Kobsak said mid-sized Thai companies are gearing up to expand in Burma in order to capitalise on huge business opportunities now that the country is more open.

Agricultural businesses, processed food, natural resources, mining, and building and construction are key sectors with potential in Burma, he said.

Many large Thai companies have already jumped into neighbouring countries.

BBL, the country’s largest bank by total assets and a regional leader in international banking, is ready to support local customers with overseas business expansion, said Mr Kobsak.


This article was originally published in the Bangkok Post on 28 April 2014.


Betsey Stevenson: "94 Years Later, Here's Where We Are:"


Last night, White House economist Betsey Stevenson sent the email below to the White House email list, telling the story of the progress women have made since gaining the right to vote -- and what's still left to accomplish.

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Hi, everyone --

In 1776, Abigail Adams wrote to John Adams, then serving on the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, and reminded him to "not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands."

Seventy-two years later, in 1848, women across the country gathered together for the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York.

And it wasn't until 72 years after that, in 1920, that women in the United States officially gained the right to vote.

Let's be honest: Change hasn't ever exactly come quickly for women in this country. And 94 years later -- while it's undeniable that women have made leaps and bounds in every facet of American life, from the classroom to the boardroom -- it's not enough.

Today, on the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, we celebrate Women's Equality Day. And today, the day-to-day operations of too many businesses and institutions still don't reflect true gender equality. We've got the data to prove it.

Throughout the day, I've posted charts that tell the story of the progress we've made -- and the challenges women still face in the workforce.

Take a look -- and then share these with someone you think needs to see them.

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Follow Along: White House Economist Betsey Stevenson Takes Over the "I Love Charts" Tumblr


Today, White House Economist Betsey Stevenson is taking over the popular "I Love Charts" Tumblr blog in honor of Women's Equality Day. Follow along here, or on the White House Tumblr.

Hey everyone! Betsey Stevenson here from President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. In honor of Women’s Equality Day, I’ll be taking over I Love Charts to tell the story of the progress we’ve made in closing the earnings gap between women and men, and the challenges women still face in the workforce.

Let’s get started. Our first chart shows how women are increasingly contributing to family income and now make up about half the workforce. Since 2000, women’s labor force participation has dropped slightly, but most of that is because of cyclical factors and an aging population. While older women participate in the workforce at lower rates than younger women, the percent of older women who are working has increased since the mid-1990s, partially offsetting the overall decline.

At the other end of the spectrum, young women are more likely to be enrolled in school than they were a generation ago, and that’s good news. Since students (even ones who work part-time) are not considered to be in the labor force, increased school enrollment will depress the participation rate.

Wanna wonk out some more on this stuff? Check out our report on “Women’s Participation in Education and the Workforce.”

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