Jobs & The Economy: Putting America Back to Work

“It is our generation’s task, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth —
a rising, thriving middle class,”

— President Barack Obama

Jobs & The Economy: Putting America Back to Work

Business in America News

  • White House Rural Council Celebrates Its One Year Anniversary

    President Obama Town Hall Meeting at the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa

    President Barack Obama holds a town hall meeting at the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, on the first day of a three-day bus tour in the Midwest, Aug. 15, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today, President Obama talked to local TV reporters from communities around the country with significant rural populations. These interviews come as the White House released a report noting progress that has been made in the agricultural economy and detailing the steps the Obama Administration has taken to help strengthen the farm economy and support jobs in rural America. The report was developed by the White House Rural Council, the Council of Economic Advisors, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, the President announced new investments to help rural small businesses expand and hire.

    One year ago today, President Obama established the White House Rural Council in order to better coordinate federal programs and maximize the impact of Federal investment to promote economic prosperity and improve the quality of life in rural communities. It truly is exciting that in just one year, more than a dozen new policy initiatives have been launched to assist rural America. One of those initiatives was a new commitment to invest in rural businesses through the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program, at no cost to tax payers. Today the President announced that more than $400 million has already been invested this fiscal year in these businesses through the SBIC program, and that nearly $2 billion in additional funding will be invested by the end of fiscal year 2016.

     

  • Women Entrepreneurs Are Creating Jobs: An Interactive Timeline

    The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression didn’t develop overnight, and it won’t be solved overnight. But while we have a long way to go, over the past 27 months, American companies have added more than 4.3 million jobs. Behind that number are countless small businesses – entrepreneurs with bold ideas and a willingness to dream big. 

    President Obama knows that small business owners are the engines of our economy. That’s why he has signed 18 new small business tax cuts into law. As our country continues to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression, we must continue to support and celebrate America’s job creators. 

    That’s why StartUp America, the Council on Women and Girls and the White House Business Council have put together an interactive tool to introduce you to some of the women entrepreneurs who are helping our country succeed. Some of these small business owners are on the cutting edge of social media, advanced manufacturing and biotechnology. Others have opened traditional “main street” establishments, such as stores and restaurants. All of them have created jobs, and made their communities better places to work and live. 

  • Ask an Entrepreneur: How Do Small Businesses Benefit from Federal Research Grants?

    Ed note: In honor of Small Business Week, StartUp America is highlighting success stories and advice from American entrepreneurs

    It is not always obvious what will come of a federal research grant. Would you expect that a federal research grant from the National Institutes of Health for “Image Slicing Spectrometer for High Resolution Sub-Cellular Microscopy” would eventually revolutionize oil rig and refinery safety?  The researchers themselves could not have guessed how far their invention would go.

    Two years ago, Robert Kester and I founded Rebellion Photonics around technology he and his colleagues at Rice University created with support from a federal grant for basic bioengineering research. Since then, we have created seven jobs, raised $1.1 million in venture funding, become cash flow positive, and created products that truly make the world a safer place.

    At Rebellion Photonics, we produce video cameras that can identify and quantify chemicals -- essentially our video cameras “see” chemicals, not just colors. While this type of technology, called hyperspectral imaging, has been around since the 1980s, researchers were forced to wait minutes, even hours to see results.  Our cameras take milliseconds, allowing the first true real-time chemical imaging video.

    The technology was initially invented to see live chemical reactions within cells for medical research.  We do sell cameras for researchers, but with the help of additional grant funding for basic R&D we have been able to expand our product range.

    Rebellion Photonics CTO Robert Kester

    Rebellion Photonics CTO Robert Kester at work on the company's the medical imaging device, which uses hyperspectral imaging to identify and quantify chemicals.

  • Startup Stories: JOBS Act Expands Opportunities for True Investments

    Ed note: In honor of Small Business Week, StartUp America is highlighting success stories from American enterpreneurs

    Stockbox Grocers is a startup out of Seattle, WA that places neighborhood grocery stores throughout urban areas to increase access to fresh produce, essential staples, and good meals. Stores are tucked inside empty storefronts or reclaimed shipping containers that can be dropped into available parking lots. As a community focused for-profit, we’ve been able to leverage a wide range of support to grow our business from an idea into reality and we expect to continue to fund our development by further cultivating relationships within our community and across the country.  

    In Fall 2011, Stockbox opened a prototype store that allowed us to test our unique business model, receive direct feedback from customers, and test key design features. We converted an 8’ x 20’ box into an inviting retail space complete with signage, curtains, community boards, a sitting area, and over 300 unique items sourced from a co-op distributor and local farms. Customers were blown away by the large variety of affordable and fresh food and this new alternative to local mini-marts. 

    We were able to open the store in only a few months because of our supporters: community groups welcomed our concept with open arms; local non-profits and government offices helped with outreach and implementation; and we raised much of our funding via a donation-based crowdfunding campaign. This online fundraising platform allowed us to share our story and develop an even wider range of support, collecting almost 200 donors from Seattle and other cities, who contributed more $21,000 in 45 days. 

    Carrie Ferrence and Jacqueline Gjurgevich of Stockbox Grocers

    Carrie Ferrence and Jacqueline Gjurgevich are the co-founders of Stockbox Grocers, a Seattle-based startup that is working to fix the grocery gap in neighborhoods that don’t have access to good food.

    The JOBS Act will expand opportunities for Stockbox and other startups to raise funds through similar crowdfunding websites – not just donations but true investments. Stockbox sees these new options as powerful tools in building relationships with investors who are interested in supporting community-based businesses, as opposed to the traditional venture capitalist format.  This will help us reach more people and raise more funds from ordinary Americans (not just the wealthy “accredited” investors currently allowed to invest in most private companies) in a way that is in line with our company’s mission.  And this provides us with resources to scale, in order to open more stores and create more jobs within communities.

  • Persistent Exporters Recognized for their Achievements during E-Awards White House Ceremony

    Ed note: This was cross-posted from tradeology, the official blog of the International Trade Administration

    Today Commerce Secretary John Bryson presented 41 U.S. companies and organizations with “E” Awards and “E Star” Awards recognizing their significant contributions to the expansion of U.S. exports. These awards fall into two categories. The “E” Award for Exports honors manufacturers and service businesses, demonstrating a sustained increase over several years in selling U.S. products and services to overseas consumers. The “E” Award for Export Service honors export service providers that demonstrate how over several years they have assisted businesses to increase their exports.

    The “E” Award was created by President John F. Kennedy on December 5, 1961, “to award suitable recognition to persons, firms, and organizations making significant contributions to the increase of American exports.” The “E Star” Award, which was authorized by the Secretary of Commerce in 1969, recognizes previous “E” Award winners for their continuing significant contributions to U.S. export expansion.

    This year marks the 50th anniversary of the “E” Award and since its inception, more than 2,500 companies and organizations have been recognized for their excellence in exporting. The honorees this year are the largest group to be recognized with the “E” Awards and “E Star” Awards for their export achievements and the diversity of industries and communities represented is impressive. The 2012 recipients come from across the United States, from Bakersfield, Calif., to Baton Rouge, La., Bolingbrook, Ill., and Bradford, Pa. Of the companies recognized at today’s ceremony, 35 are small or medium-sized enterprises, 20 are manufacturers, and 17 companies are both.

  • National Travel and Tourism Strategy Sets Goal to Draw 100 Million International Visitors to U.S.

    As we celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week, the U.S. government is doubling down on its commitment to create more jobs for Americans by growing international and domestic travel and tourism that powers our economy.                                                                      

    Last year, 62 million international tourists visited the United States and pumped a record $153 billion into local economies, helping to support the 7.6 million jobs in our travel and tourism industry. These numbers make tourism America’s number one service export.

    That’s why the White House released a new National Travel and Tourism Strategy today, charting a new course toward making America a more attractive and accessible destination than ever before. The Strategy sets a goal of drawing 100 million international visitors by 2021, which is expected to generate $250 billion annually in visitor spending by 2012. The strategy also encourages more Americans to travel within the United States.

    America is the land of extraordinary natural wonders – from the Grand Canyon to the Florida Keys; from Yellowstone to Yosemite. America is where we do big things, and as a result, we have incredible landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Empire State Building; the Hoover Dam and the Gateway Arch. This is the land of iconic cities and all their sights – from Independence Hall in Philadelphia to the Space Needle in Seattle to the skyline of Chicago. From the Mall of America to Walt Disney World, we have it all right here.

  • Startup Stories: Fast Forward, With a Few Speed Bumps

    "Always be humble and don’t let anybody say you don't work hard. Do your best” were the words of wisdom instilled in me by my Haitian-born parents. They’d experienced the dictatorship of Jean Claude Duvalier, yet remained total optimists. 

    I thought of them when I arrived at the White House earlier this month. I thought I was just going to attend the signing of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act but in fact, I did more than that. First, I was fortunate enough to attend a roundtable discussion to discuss how the new law will fuel innovation across the country and then we had the privilege of meeting President Obama and joined him on the podium in the Rose Garden to sign the bill into law.  

    As I stood up there, I felt honored to part of such a historic occasion. I was thinking of my own startup, my co-founders, our customers, our employees and our investors, and my journey to this moment.

    I was born in Nassau, Bahamas, and then five years later, my family moved to New York. Like many immigrants from the Caribbean, we made Brooklyn, NY, our home.

    In junior high school, I worked hard doing odd jobs to save money to buy my first computer. I started my first (little) company selling colorful computer disks and typing papers for my high school teachers, who were completing their Masters degrees. While my friends had paper routes, I was already going the techie route. 

    After completing undergraduate and graduate programs in computer science at Cornell, I worked at Intel, before helping launch The Theory Center, a leader in component software for enterprise applications. Our founding team was like the United Nations, with representatives from Argentina, China, Haiti, Mexico, and the U.S. We sold the company to BEA systems, for more than $150 million, a life-changing experience. 

    After three years spent investing in young companies, I joined with two of my original partners (Joseph Pilkerton and Julian Pelenur) to start FirstBest Systems. We wanted to renew our passion for building innovative companies and we chose insurance because the industry was underserved by technology in so many areas. We spent 18 months talking to real insurance people about their pains and asked them "If you could wave a magic wand and change your work world, what would it look like?" When everyone began saying the same thing, we knew we were on to something. 

  • American Business Leaders Speak Out about the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act

    On April 5, 2012, President Obama signed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, a bipartisan bill that will allow Main Street small businesses and high-growth enterprises to raise capital from investors more efficiently, encouraging small and young firms across the country to grow and hire faster. 

    The JOBS Act is a product of bipartisan cooperation, with the President and Congress working together to promote American entrepreneurship and innovation. It will help growing businesses access financing while maintaining investor protections, and includes all three of the capital formation priorities that the President first called for last fall:  allowing “crowdfunding,” expanding “mini-public offerings,” and creating an “IPO on-ramp” consistent with investor protections.  

    BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS

    Michelle Long,Executive Director of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE)

    “Previous laws placed huge restrictions on the investment choices of small, ‘unaccredited’ investors—a category in SEC that included all but the richest two percent of Americans.  The old regulations prohibited the average American from investing in any small business, something that we now expect to be enthusiastically greeted by both business owners and investors across the country.” 

  • Are You a Small Business That Has Been Helped by SBA? Don’t Miss our National Small Business Week Video Contest

    It’s almost time for National Small Business Week 2012 - and to kick things off we are launching a video contest. 

    Each week I travel around the country and hear from business owners about how SBA has helped them start, grow and succeed.  I’m often inspired by each business’ ingenuity, and it’s the small business owners I meet each week that are making communities strong and keeping America competitive. 

    I want to share these stories, and so many more, with everyone.  The video contest is an opportunity for small business owners and entrepreneurs to share their success stories with a larger audience and emphasize how important they are to their local economy. 

  • Connecting Grads to Resources to Help You Start a Business

    Ed note: This is was originally posted on the Small Business Administration Community blog.

    Graduation season is right around the corner and to help grads who are looking to start a small business, SBA and the U.S. Department of Education will host a Twitter Q & A Session on April 25 at 2 pm EDT to connect soon-to-be grads or recent grads with resources that will help them startup, succeed and create an economy built to last.

    U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and I will answer your questions about starting a business and  highlight the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan, which supports young college grads who are looking to start a business, join a startup, or work in a public service job by making Federal student loan repayment manageable.  IBR helps to keep loan payments affordable by using a sliding scale to determine how much you can afford to pay on your Federal loans—empowering you to take risks with new opportunities like starting a small business.

  • Turning the Unemployment Program into a Reemployment Program

    Ed note: this post was originally published on Work in Progress, the Department of Labor's blog

    Two months ago, the President signed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. That legislation extended the vital payroll tax cut and federal unemployment insurance programs that have been so crucial for American families and to the continued and sustained economic recovery.  But it also included several important reforms to the Unemployment Insurance system that didn’t grab the headlines the day it passed.

    The Obama Administration is committed to finding new and innovative ways to turn the unemployment system into a reemployment system. States, as laboratories of democracy, can play a crucial role in developing creative strategies that help us accomplish this goal in ways that may inform the policies of other states and the federal government in the future.   

    Today, I had the privilege to announce guidance to states interested in developing demonstration projects to help their unemployed obtain jobs faster and more efficiently. These demonstrations are a key component in the first major overhaul of the Unemployment Insurance system in decades. 

    Through this initiative, 10 states will have the opportunity to develop new and creative ways to help recipients of UI funds get back to work faster. These states will design programs that help the unemployed get back to work, while lowering costs and ensuring that all participants receive the same worker protections.  This will create a level playing field for employers who follow the rules and have their employees’ welfare in mind.

    The Labor Department is preparing to announce more guidance in the coming months that further improve the functionality of the UI system. These reforms will provide states with more flexibility to respond to changes in the economy, provide employers tools to avoid layoffs, help the unemployed get back into the workforce faster and even expand opportunities for the unemployed to start their own businesses.

  • Regional Roundup: President Obama Travels to Ohio to Promote Job Training

    Yesterday, the President visited Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio to highlight how federal job training funding is providing critical services for unemployed workers and helping them to get jobs in high-demand, high-growth industries. The President sat down with students in the college’s Transformations program for Computerized Numerically Controlled Machining, a program with a proven track record of success – placing more than 90 percent of participants in jobs within three months of graduation.

    If Republicans in Congress had their way, they would actually cut funding to programs that help middle class families get back on their feet in order to provide more tax cuts to the wealthy.  That doesn’t make any sense. 

    • Their proposed cuts would reduce funding for federal employment and training programs to help laid-off and out-of-work adults–eliminating services to 425,000 Americans in 2013, and nearly 1.1 million in 2014.
    • Across America, in 2013 an estimated 13,000 young people and 45,000 in 2014 would also lose employment and training services, and job search assistance services would be eliminated for over 1.4 million job-seekers in 2013 and 3.5 million in 2014.

  • President Obama Talks About Investing in Training American Workers

    President Barack Obama Participates in a Roundtable with Unemployed Workers

    President Barack Obama participates in a roundtable with unemployed workers who are students in Lorain County Community College job training programs, at Lorain Community College in Elyria, Ohio, April 18, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    President Obama was in Elyria, Ohio today where he met with students at Lorain County Community College. The President was there to talk about the Administration’s job training initiatives to help more Americans get back to work and connect unemployed Americans with the skills training they need to find jobs in high-demand, high-growth industries, including the Community College to Career Fund. He told the students that taking classes at community colleges and getting new skills doesn't just benefit students and their future employers but adds economic value to the entire region:

    Investing in a community college, just like investing in a new road or a new highway or broadband lines that go into rural communities, these investments are not part of some grand scheme to redistribute wealth. They’ve been made by Democrats and Republicans for generations because they benefit all of us. That's what leads to strong, durable economic growth. That's how America became an economic superpower. That's how we built the Transcontinental Railroad. That's why we’ve got the best universities and colleges in the world. That's why we have cutting-edge research that takes place here, and that then gets translated into new jobs and new businesses, because somebody did the groundwork.  We created a foundation for those of us to prosper. 

    When you take classes at a community college like this one and you learn the skills that you need to get a job right away, that does not just benefit you; it benefits the company that ends up hiring and profiting from your skills.  It makes the entire region stronger economically.  It makes this country stronger economically. 

    In this country, prosperity does not trickle down; prosperity grows from the bottom up.  And it grows from a strong middle class out.  That’s how we grow this economy.

    President Barack Obama Delivers Remarks Highlighting the Administration’s Job Training Initiatives

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks highlighting the Administration’s job training initiatives to help get more Americans back to work and connect unemployed Americans with the skills training needed to find jobs in high-demand, high-growth industries, at Lorain Community College in Elyria, Ohio, April 18, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)


    Learn more:

  • Guest Post: Through Crowdfunding New Businesses Can Test Ideas with the Toughest Critics -- Customers and Investors

    Two weeks after the Haiti earthquake, Anna Stork and I teamed up to start LuminAid Lab out of a shared belief that portable solar lighting could greatly add to the safety and survival of victims of a disaster or crisis. As students and novice entrepreneurs, we faced the 'chicken-and-egg' problem that many small companies confront in scaling up a business without an initial, deep source of cash. We had designed an innovative solar light that would help in aiding disaster relief victims, but we lacked the funding to manufacture our product at a meaningful scale.

    We launched our company in January 2011, and last November we launched our "Give Light, Get Light" crowdfunding campaign on a donation-based website, IndieGoGo.com. We established a goal of financing the manufacturing of our first 1,000 lights through the pre-sale of 500 lights. The remaining 500 lights would be donated to partners who offered to field test the product. 

    To our surprise, we reached $10,000 within the first week of the campaign and over the next 30 days, we raised more than $50,000, sold 1,500 lights, and had another 3,300 matched to our partners as donations. While we had field tested several dozen lights and continued to optimize our prototype prior to the campaign, we had not anticipated this type of support and call to action from those who participated by sponsoring lights. These donated lights have been sent to schools, orphanages, and development projects around the world.

    Crowdfunding provided us with access to our first 1,200 customers, individuals and organizations with whom we now communicate constantly as a result of their pre-purchase of the LuminAID light. While the money gained from the successful campaign was a big financial boost to our efforts, the even more valuable outcome of the campaign was establishing a connection with the first and earliest supporters of our company. We leveraged crowdfunding as a platform that bridged the gap between testing our idea and truly understanding what motivated our first customers to purchase our product.  We are carrying forward this knowledge of what our customers care about as we scale our marketing, sales and distribution efforts. Crowdfunding also allowed LuminAID Lab to engage technology and social media in launching our business and ultimately enabled us to sell our light to people in more than 25 different countries.

    It was an honor to have been invited to represent LuminAID Lab at the signing of the JOBS Act at the White House in early April.  Provisions of the JOBS Act will allow small businesses like ours greater access to investor capital through crowdfunding – not just donations, but true investments. Our own experience illustrates the value of establishing crowdfunding as a viable source of funding – it will enable new businesses to truly test out ideas amongst the toughest and most thorough critics: the very first customers and investors who share a part in a company's failure or success.


    Learn More about the JOBS Act:

  • The Health Care Law is Helping Small Businesses

    Small businesses are the engine of the American economy.  Over the past 17 years, they have generated 65 percent of all net jobs and today the 27.5 million small businesses in the U.S. employ about half of all private sector workers. 

    The Affordable Care Act is helping fix a health care market that has been broken for small business owners. For too long, many small businesses couldn’t afford to provide coverage for their employees.  And those who did paid more and knew their premiums could skyrocket if one employee got sick. For many business owners, this meant choosing between keeping their employees covered or dropping coverage and running the risk of losing good employees. 

    The new health care law is giving business owners new resources and options to cover their employers. The law helps small business owners by providing tax credits to help them afford coverage. These tax credits have already benefited an estimated two million workers who get their insurance from an estimated 360,000 small employers.  This includes businesses like Vahallan Papers in Lincoln, Nebraska. Vahallan Papers has produced custom, hand-made wallpaper for 14 years, and seven years ago, started offering health insurance to attract high quality employees. They were able to get the tax credit in both 2010 and 2011, and used that tax credit to increase the amount they contributed to their employee’s health care costs, saving their employees around $400 a year each.

  • Winning Apps to Close the Pay Gap

    Ed. Note: This was cross-posted from the Department of Labor's Work in Progress blog.

    Nearly 50 years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, on average women are still paid less than their male counterparts for doing comparable jobs – that’s called the pay gap. For the average working woman, the pay gap means $150 less in her weekly paycheck, $8,000 less at the end of the year, and $380,000 less over her lifetime. For women of color and women with disabilities, the disparity is even bigger.

    Earlier this year, in conjunction with the Equal Pay Task Force, I announced the Equal Pay App Challenge, the latest in a series of steps the Obama Administration has taken to secure a woman’s right to equal pay for equal work. The App challenge invited software developers to use publicly available labor data and other online resources to create applications to educate users about the pay gap and to build tools to promote equal pay.  

    We had an enthusiastic response to the challenge and thanks to our winning applications, now anyone with a smart phone, tablet or computer can find tips on important salary topics from typical pay ranges, skill level requirements for certain jobs, how to negotiate salaries, and more. I am excited to announce the winners of the Challenge: Aequitas, Close The Wage Gap, the Gender Gap App, and Demand Equal Pay For Women

  • Guest Post: The JOBS Act Opens New Possibilities for the Growth of our Business

    My company, Emmy's Organics is three years old. I started it with my life and business partner, Ian Gaffney. We make and manufacture gluten free and vegan snacks and desserts. We literally have grown Emmy's from the ground up, starting in Ian's mother's home kitchen and now working out of our own manufacturing facility in Ithaca, NY. After making use of the first small business loan we took out from our local credit union, we decided to launch a crowd-funding campaign through a donation-based website. We raised $15,000 in 30 days. Over the next 11 months, we used that capital to hire a designer and create custom packaging that was pre-printed and also compostable (our company uses almost no plastic in all of our packaging). We launched our new packaging in December 2011 and in that short time, we have seen a 150% increase in our sales, our products are now available in 1,000 stores and our company has grown from four to seven full time employees. Truly a success.

    The best part of crowdfunding was the experience of our local community supporting us. We have always been and continue to be very community-based. We are proud to label our business as "made in Ithaca, NY" and we use as many local resources as possible. It was such an acknowledgement to us that our fans and neighbors were willing to contribute their dollars to take our business to the next level.

    Earlier this month I had the honor of attending President Obama’s signing of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. As I write that, I almost cannot believe it. I would have never thought, back when I started my company that I would be recognized by the White House as an entrepreneur and asked to be a part of history. As I am twenty-five years old, you can probably guess that I have never owned or operated a business before this one. This experience continues to teach me lessons as I continue to grow and develop myself alongside my business. Being at the White House and having the opportunity to speak with government officials, members of Congress, and successful entrepreneurs was a reminder that truly anything is possible.

    Both in the immediate and longer term, the JOBS Act opens new possibilities for the future growth of our business. With  its emphasis on crowdfunding as a way to raise capital – not just donations but for the first time true investments -- I am excited for other businesses to have that same experience. 


    Learn more about the JOBS Act: 

  • Securing Equal Pay

    Today – Tuesday, April 17 – is Equal Pay Day, which marks the fact that, nearly 50 years since President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the average woman still has to work well into the calendar year to earn what the average man earned last year. According to the latest U.S. Census statistics, on average, full-time working women earned 77 cents to every dollar earned by men, and the gap is significantly more for women of color. This substantial gap is more than a mere statistic.  It has real-life consequences.  Women, who compose nearly half of the workforce, are bringing home 23 percent less than their male counterparts – which means less for families’ everyday needs, less for investments in our children’s futures, and, when added up over a lifetime of work, substantially less for retirement. 

    President Obama understands how much this issue impacts our nation’s economic well-being, and that’s why, from his earliest days in office, he has been committed to closing the pay gap.  Today, in conjunction with Equal Pay Day, we are proud to announce the following additional initiatives: 

    • First, the White House released the Equal Pay Task Force Accomplishments Report:  Fighting for Fair Pay in the Workplace. The Equal Pay Task Force (“Task Force”), which the President established in 2010, brings together the best expertise of professionals at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor and the Office of Personnel Management, who work daily to combat pay discrimination in the workplace. Since the Task Force’s creation, enforcement actions have increased; the government has recovered unprecedented monetary recoveries for women seeking their fair share for performing the same work as men; and investments in outreach to both employers and employees are paying big dividends. The report details the significant progress that the Task Force has made to fight pay discrimination – including improving inter-agency coordination and collaboration to ensure that the full weight of the federal government is focused on closing the gender pay gap once and for all.  I commend the professionals who represent the member agencies on the Task Force for the extraordinary work they and their teams undertake each day to realize the President’s directive. 
    • Second, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today announced the winners of the “Equal Pay App Challenge.”  In January of this year, the Department of Labor, in conjunction with the Equal Pay Task Force, launched this challenge – inviting software developers to use publicly available data and resources to create applications that provide greater access to pay data organized by gender, race, and ethnicity; provide interactive tools for early career coaching or online mentoring; or provide data to help inform pay negotiations.  A solution to the pay gap has been elusive, in part because access to basic information – e.g., typical salary ranges and skill level requirements for particular positions, advice on how to negotiate appropriate pay – is limited.  Because of the enthusiastic response to the “Equal Pay App Challenge” and the creative apps that were developed, anyone with a smartphone, tablet or computer can access answers to these basic, but important, questions.  This challenge represents just one more way that women can empower themselves with the tools they need to make sure they get equal pay for equal work.   
    • Finally, in our ongoing effort to educate employees and employers about their rights and responsibilities under our nation’s equal pay laws, the Department of Labor today published two brochures that will educate employees regarding their rights under the existing equal pay laws and enable employers to understand their obligations.

  • More from the Summit of the Americas

    President Barack Obama arrives at the Summit of the Americas (April 14, 2012)

    President Barack Obama arrives at the Julio Cesar Turbay Ayala Convention Center for the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Columbia, April 14, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    This weekend, President Obama was in Colombia for the sixth annual Summit of the Americas.

    The nations involved in this conference are some of our closest allies -- and some of our strongest economic partners.

    Approximately 42 percent of U.S. exports are sent to countries in the Western Hemisphere, an amount that has increased by more than $200 billion since 2009.

    That's why it's fitting that President Obama was able to announce that the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement will enter into force on May 15th. Speaking with Colombian President Santos, he said:

    [This] agreement is a win for both our countries. It's a win for the United States by increasing our exports by more than $1 billion, supporting thousands of U.S. jobs and helping to achieve my goal of doubling U.S. exports. It's a win for Colombia by giving you even greater access to the largest market for your exports -- the United States of America. And I'd add that this agreement is a win for our workers and the environment because of the strong protections it has for both -- commitments we are going to fulfill.

    To learn more about this weekend's Summit, check out the fact sheet or read the President's remarks to leaders at the opening plenary session.

     

  • President Obama’s Record, Results and Agenda on Income Inequality

    “This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. Because what’s at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement.” -- Remarks by the President on the Economy in Osawatomie, Kansas, December 6, 2011

    The President has been focused on working to ensure an America that grows together, rather than one in which the gains go disproportionately to the wealthy. His policies have already made a real contribution to achieving this ideal—benefiting millions of people, principally middle-class Americans and those struggling to get into the middle class—and he continues to push tirelessly for policies, including the Buffett Rule, that will help us get closer.

    The best available data on incomes refute the baseless claim recently made by some that income inequality is worse under President Obama than it was under President George W. Bush. More fundamentally, whereas the previous Administration’s policies were tilted towards the wealthiest Americans, President Obama has been focused on the middle class and those working to get into the middle class.

    Inequality Was Worse Under President Bush than Under President Obama

    According to the latest data from economist Emmanuel Saez, when the last economic expansion ended in 2007, the fraction of income going to the top 1 percent was the highest since 1928 and the fraction of income going to the top 0.1 percent was the highest ever recorded (the data go back to 1913). The share of income going to the very top remains high, but has come down and was lower in both 2009 and 2010 than in any year from 2005 through 2008.

    Share of Income to Top 1 Percent Chart

    income to the top .1 percent

    It is difficult to evaluate changes in inequality over very short periods of time, especially when these coincide with a deep recession and dramatic fluctuations in equity prices. But there is no basis in the data for claiming that inequality under President Obama is greater than the historic levels reached under President Bush. Any suggestion to the contrary is based on a combination of ignoring the most obvious facts and treating the dramatic recovery of the stock market in 2009 and 2010 as if it tells a deeper structural story about the economy.