America’s economy is back and firing on all cylinders.
Our nation’s heartland is leading the way. Gov. Kim Reynolds and I recently visited innovative workforce education programs at Des Moines’ Central Campus and Waukee APEX. Our visits also included the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women, where individuals work toward certifications before their transition from incarceration to the workplace.
Governor Reynolds’ forward-thinking approach to workforce issues is yielding dividends. Iowa’s unemployment rate is 2.9 percent. In some parts of the state, unemployment is as low as 1.9 percent.
Iowa’s economic boom is reflective of the economic boom underway throughout our nation. While some focus on distractions, President Donald Trump has been hard at work advancing a pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda. The results speak volumes about his leadership.
Nationally, nearly 3 million jobs have been created since November 2016. For the past six months, unemployment has held steady at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent.
The unemployment rate for America’s veterans in 2017 was 3.7 percent, the lowest level since 2001. African-American and Hispanic-American unemployment hit their lowest levels ever in 2017.
GDP in the fourth quarter of 2017 was nearly 3 percent, a number that many economists never thought we would achieve.
Survey after survey shows that Americans are optimistic about the economy. Consumer confidence reached its highest point in 14 years, according to the University of Michigan consumer survey. The Federal Reserve reports that industrial production, manufacturing production, and mining output are trending up.
To date, more than 4 million Americans working from more than 460 companies have received bonuses, raises, 401(k) increases, or other benefits as a result of the president’s tax reform. Average hourly earnings have started to grow. Personal retirement accounts have soared. Jobs are coming back to America from overseas.
This is exciting news. Yet I see even bigger things on the horizon.
As I meet with working Americans, including during my visit last week to Iowa, I am focused less on where we are and more on where we are going: Even more jobs, even more opportunity, even greater prosperity.
We have a clear challenge to solve to get there. Across the United States, there are a record 6.3 million open jobs. That includes about 65,000 open jobs in Iowa.
To fill these jobs, we are working with states to roll back burdensome occupational licensing rules and expand apprenticeships.
Millions of Americans already have the skills employers need to fill good, family-sustaining jobs that are currently unfilled. In some cases, their employment is blocked by excessive and burdensome occupational licensing requirements.
In 1950, only 1 in 20 Americans needed a license to perform their job. Today, more than 1 in 4 Americans must acquire a license to work and, by the latest count, states and cities license more than 1,100 separate occupations.
I have traveled all over the country encouraging state leaders to eliminate unnecessary licenses, streamline those necessary for health and safety, and pursue reciprocity agreements with neighboring states.
For some Americans, our education system fails to provide skills demanded in growing industries.
This spring, President Trump’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, which I chair, will issue its report and recommendations for expanding industry-recognized apprenticeships designed to provide job seekers with the demand-driven skills they need to excel in the jobs of today and tomorrow.
The new, industry-recognized apprenticeships will extend to all industries. They will forge new partnerships among educational institutions, businesses, labor unions, industry associations, and public officials to develop apprenticeships that deliver the skills and experience that American job creators need.
I am grateful for the meaningful contributions Governor Reynolds has made as a member of the Task Force. From my participation last week in the Future Ready Iowa Summit, I know that Iowans are confronting, head on, the task of job readiness. A more flexible apprenticeship option will create even more opportunities.
With a lifetime of experience as a job creator, Americans believed that President Trump would jumpstart our economy. He has, and he’s just getting started.