Chart of the Week: Job Openings Hit a 13-Year High This Summer


Each day, American businesses are firing on all cylinders to create jobs and drive America's economic growth. Just last month, our private sector added jobs for the 53rd straight month, the longest streak on record. In total, American businesses have added 9.9 million jobs since early 2010. This week, we saw another sign of progress, as the number of available jobs rose to the highest level in more than 13 years.

American business owners advertised 4.67 million jobs in June, the highest number of openings since February 2001 — a clear signal that the economy is strengthening. Take a look at how we went from record lows during the Great Recession to hitting a new high this summer — then share the good news:

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Catch the Rising Tide of U.S. Travel Jobs, Exports


Ed. note: This is cross-posted from Tradeology, the official blog of the International Trade Administration. You can see the original post here.

Whatever your fancy -- toes in sand, skis in fresh powder, or your golf ball in the middle of the fairway (we hope) -- your travel plans support millions of jobs throughout the United States.

We have the data to prove it: New data from the Department of Commerce show the travel and tourism industry supported 7.6 million jobs in 2013, up 146,000 jobs from 2012.

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Giving America a Raise: A Progress Report


In this year’s State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour—a move that would boost the bottom lines of businesses and increase the earnings of 28 million hardworking Americans.

It's a commonsense proposal that Republicans in Congress continue to block—which is why President Obama took action to raise the minimum wage for workers on new federal contracts. And states, cities, and businesses across the country are doing their part, too.

A new White House report released today looks at the progress businesses and communities are making in raising the minimum wage for millions of workers. In fact, since the President first called for a minimum wage increase in 2013, 13 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to increase their minimum wage, which will benefit about 7 million workers.

The economic evidence is clear: It's time to give America a raise. Find out how many more workers would benefit if Congress would take action to raise the wage:

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Chart of the Week: Number of Americans Applying for Unemployment Benefits Lowest Since 2006


The economy is getting stronger thanks to the grit and resilience of American workers. Last month, total job growth exceeded 200,000 for the sixth straight month, the first time that’s happened since 1997. In fact, our private sector has added 9.9 million jobs for the last 53 straight months, the longest streak on record.

As the economy moves forward, the number of people who are applying for unemployment insurance is dropping. Just this week, the four-week moving average of initial claims for unemployment benefits hit their lowest level since 2006. And while this series can be volatile from week to week, a look at the longer-term picture shows the progress we have made. Take a look at where that number was during the Great Recession — and where we are now:

This chart shows that the four-week moving average of initial claims — a more accurate measure of unemployment claims than week-to-week data — has fallen to 293,500, the lowest level since February of 2006.

While we are making progress, there is still more work to do. President Obama’s priority continues to be restoring economic security for the middle class — and those working their way up to the middle class — to ensure that every hardworking American has the opportunity to get ahead. The President is committed to working with Congress to continue this momentum, but he won’t wait on Congress to do his job and invest in America’s economic growth.

Check out how the President is using his pen and his phone to create new manufacturing jobs, expand job training, make college more affordable, support equal pay and work flexibility, and strengthen security for America’s middle class.

How Saudi Arabia can avoid an energy crisis


By Maha Hosain Aziz, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Maha Hosain Aziz is a professor of politics (adjunct) in NYU's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and a senior analyst at geopolitical consultancy Wikistrat. The views expressed are her own.

Ask most Americans which country is the world’s largest oil producer is, and you will likely hear some familiar names – Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq. Some might suggest Russia, which produces more than 10 million barrels a day. Yet according to recent numbers from the International Energy Agency and Bank of America, it’s another country has taken the lead in global production – the United States. And this new reality raises an interesting question: Is this the beginning of the end of former number one Saudi Arabia’s global oil dominance?

In recent years, everyone from Citigroup to Chatham House has suggested Saudi Arabia – the world’s biggest oil exporter – could face oil shortages in the next 10 to 15 years, prompting many to ask whether the country and its heavily oil-dependent economy are prepared for the potential crisis.

The answer is yes, and no. Local energy demand has skyrocketed, and could increase by 250 percent by 2028, largely due to a population boom that has seen the Kingdom’s population jump from six million in 1970 to over 29 million today. This in turn has prompted the state to explore oil alternatives for domestic energy use. Indeed, in June, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates reportedly signed an accord to jointly develop renewable energy and clean technology. In addition, Saudi Arabia has indicated it hopes to become a key market for renewable energy by 2032, with a projected third of the country’s power to come from this source.

That’s a start. But it probably won’t be enough. The reality is that if the energy crisis happens at any point in the next 15 years, the state – which, according to U.S. figures, currently derives over 45 percent of the country’s GDP, 80 percent of its budget revenue and 90 percent of its export earnings from oil – won’t be in a position to provide the same level of social welfare that it has historically. If this is the case, it is hard to imagine it won’t spark bursts of unrest in a way the country has not yet experienced. In particular, ongoing social tensions involving groups that have felt excluded from the state’s policies – i.e. many women, unemployed youth and the Shia minority – will likely resurface.

So, how can this potentially unstable future be managed? Three state-led steps could help the country tackle its expected oil shortage and related instability in the coming years.

Diversify the Economy. The good news is that this has already started to happen. There have been legitimate efforts to develop the private sector, including telecommunications, entrepreneurship and power generation to reduce the economy’s oil dependence. Several economic cities, entrepreneurship centers and universities have been set up by the state specifically to cultivate non-oil industries and entrepreneurs. In February, a new mineral industrial city in Waad al-Shamal, worth an estimated $9.5 billion, was announced, while in June, it was reported that the government and Riyad Capital will launch a venture capital fund worth $270 million specifically for new technology startups. Saudi Arabia even experienced a five-month high in the growth of its nonoil business activity in June. But following through in a sustained and large scale way will be key in helping the economy, and society, shift toward a greater emphasis on new industries and entrepreneurship.

Create Jobs. Saudi Arabia’s unemployment numbers speak for themselves – some 43 percent of young people with a tertiary education and 34 percent of women are jobless. A quarter of the population are reportedly living in poverty. True, the state has noted the need to create jobs for youth and women, especially in the private sector, and has had some success.

For example, the country was the leader in job creation in the Gulf in 2013, while workforce numbers in the nonoil private sector accelerated this year. Yet the unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high. If there is not a direct link between these new industries and employment for these sensitive groups, an oil shortage will lead to even more discontent.

Publicize these Policies. A policy needs more than just state support – it needs to be seen as legitimate by citizens so they will be in a position to take advantage of it. In Saudi Arabia’s case, the government would need to communicate with unemployed young people and women (and hopefully the Shias) and steer them towards the jobs that are being created in new industries. But more broadly, the state would have to educate all of its citizens about this shift in policy – a much-needed psychological shift.

Of course, none of this will be straightforward – conservatives can be expected to oppose the idea of women having more employment opportunities. The same for the Shia minority. But if Saudi Arabia wants to have any hope of easing itself off its oil dependence, it will need to transform its economy – and it will need all of its citizens’ help to pull this off.​



Join a Twitter Q&A on the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit


President Obama at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum

President Barack Obama takes the stage to deliver remarks at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel during the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Update: Ned Price, Assistant Press Secretary and Director for Strategic Communications, will be answering questions on @NSCPress.

Over the past couple of weeks, there's been a lot of activity in Washington focused around strengthening our economic and diplomatic ties with Africa. Last week, President Obama took part in a town hall for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, which is part of the President's Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). And this week, the President hosted the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which brought 50 African leaders to Washington, making it the largest event any U.S. President has held with African heads of state and government.

During the summit, the President highlighted Africa's impressive economic growth, and made clear that America will be a partner in its success -- "a good partner, an equal partner, and a partner for the long term." He also announced a series of steps that the United States is taking to boost trade and investments with Africa -- commitments from the private and public sectors which total some $33 billion.

This is an important step for both the United States and Africa -- and we want to spend a little more time talking about it with you this week. So Assistant Press Secretary and Director for Strategic Communications Ned Price is taking to Twitter to answer your questions. Tomorrow, August 7 at 2 p.m. ET, join Ned Price and the ONE Campaign for a Twitter Q&A on YALI and this week's U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.

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President Obama Speaks at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum during the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

This afternoon, President Obama spoke to a crowd that included 50 African leaders, at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington, D.C. The Business Forum is part of the historic three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which is the largest event any U.S. President has held with African heads of state and government, and builds on the President's trip to Africa in 2013. 

The summit is an opportunity for the President to illustrate his approach to Africa. As he said at today's Business Forum, even as Africa continues to face many challenges — disease, poverty, violence, and hunger — there are many signs that a new Africa is emerging:

Some of the fastest-growing economies in the world.  A growing middle class.  Expanding sectors like manufacturing and retail.  One of the fastest-growing telecommunications markets in the world.  More governments are reforming, attracting a record level of foreign investment.  It is the youngest and fastest-growing continent, with young people that are full of dreams and ambition.

As Africa experiences continued growth, the President made it clear that America will be a partner in its success — "a good partner, an equal partner, and a partner for the long term."

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Weekly Address: It's Time for Congress to Help the Middle Class

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Map Room of the White House, Aug. 1, 2014.

President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Map Room of the White House, Aug. 1, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

In this week’s address, the President discussed the new monthly jobs report and the fact that our economy created over 200,000 new jobs in July for the sixth straight month – the longest streak since 1997. To ensure this momentum can be sustained, the President is pressing Congress to act to create jobs and expand opportunity from raising the minimum wage, to helping people pay back their student loans, to fair pay and paid leave. These are steps that would continue to make things better for the middle class, which has always been his priority. But Republicans in Congress have repeatedly blocked these important measures.

As Congress is about to go on vacation, the President encouraged Americans to reach out to their elected officials and let them know that they must pass these measures when Congress returns to session. And in their absence, the President will continue to do everything he can, working with all stakeholders who are willing, to create jobs, strengthen our economy, and expand opportunity for all Americans.

Transcript | mp4 | mp3