November payrolls a 'good, steady, strong jobs report,' U.S. Labor Secretary says

U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh joins Yahoo Finance Live to break down the November jobs report, the Fed’s policy pathway, bringing inflationary pressures down, and the outlook for the labor market.

Video Transcript

[AUDIO LOGO]

JULIE HYMAN: The United States created 263,000 jobs in the month of November. That's how many were added. Let's get more of a pulse on the jobs market with US Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, who is joining us, as he does every jobs day. Good to see you, Mr. Secretary. Thanks for being here with us.

So we're looking at, yes, slowing jobs growth, but still, the growth is happening. How are you thinking about it from inside the White House to keep the momentum going while at the same time hopefully also letting the Fed do its job in bringing inflation down?

MARTY WALSH: Yeah, well, first of all, in this report, as you said, it was a good, steady, strong job report. The unemployment rates in that country are near historic lows in all different categories. The Black unemployment rate is 5.7%, which is still a bit too high. We have to bring that down. Latino is 3.9%. The Asian unemployment rate is 2.7%. So we have a little bit of work to-- we have a lot of work, I should say, to do in the Black unemployment.

When I look at the report-- when you dive into the report, there's a couple of sectors that had really good gains this month that haven't over the last couple of months. And one is hospitality-- leisure and hospitality. We added nearly 90,000 jobs in that sector. That sector has not fully recovered since prepandemic.

We also saw in education a good strong growth in private education and colleges and universities, of people going to work in those areas. And then when you look at the rest of the jobs report, when I think about that, it's really-- and I think you hear about the noise about layoffs and hiring and job openings.

It really is going to come down to now, as we move forward, making sure that we're doing more precise job training, workforce development, apprenticeship moving forward, working with employers as we move forward here.

I think it's really important we're seeing wages go up. We're seeing some decreases in inflation. So we're starting to see a lot of the policies that are being put out there. Both what the Fed's doing and what the president's doing are taking positive steps in the right direction. So I just want to hope that the continuous strong job market into 2023.

BRAD SMITH: In the Fed's policy pathway, Marty, do you get concerned at the White House when you hear any of the Fed members talking about higher unemployment rates?

MARTY WALSH: No. I mean, we don't really comment on Fed policy. And I know that that's pretty much been what I've been hearing for the last several months. But we have a lot of need in this country to get people to work. And there's a lot of job openings in this country.

And what we want to do-- I mean, after the last couple of years of the pandemic and people leaving industries and quitting their jobs and retiring and things like that and maybe coming back now, I think I'm going to stay focused in 2023 on creating opportunities and pathways into good-paying jobs.

And I've spent a lot of time in the last several months and since I started this job working with employers in this country, working with unions in this country, working with workers-- workers' rights groups in this country to really think about pathways into good middle class jobs.

And I think that we're going to continue that pathway because right now, I mean, it's working. I mean, you think about-- we need to continue to bring those inflationary pressures down. But if we weren't talking about inflation, the economy is-- everyone would view it as super-strong. And unfortunately, the reality of the situation is we have more work to do to bring inflationary pressures down.

JULIE HYMAN: When you have those conversations with employers around the country, where are you hearing still the most acute need for workers right now?

MARTY WALSH: Skilled workers, I mean depending on the different industries that are out there, depending on the industry, whether it's the health care sector, tech sector, cybersecurity sector, all those different sectors. They're looking for employees.

And a lot of these companies were looking several years ago for college graduates. A lot of them now are thinking that we can train people to get them in the front door to help us move forward and train them up ourselves. And we're doing a lot of this particularly around apprenticeship.

And we've spent I think $363 million last year-- or this year, I should say, in apprenticeship and registered apprenticeship. And we're looking to expand registered apprenticeships. I mean, the apprenticeship program and the idea in the United States of America, we really think about it as construction.

If you go to Europe, apprenticeship is in every industry. And a lot of companies now are starting to say, wait a second, I'd like to have an apprenticeship program here to really think about getting people in the front door and exposing people to my industry. And those are the conversations that I've been having a lot all over the country.

BRAD SMITH: And that kind of dovetails into my next question with regard to where, going into 2023 and even 2024-- where you've prioritized being able to have some of the barriers to legal immigration removed in order to attract some of that top talent, especially across science, technology, education, mathematics as well--

MARTY WALSH: Yeah. Listen, I've been a strong proponent for a long time of immigration reform. When I was the mayor of Boston, I was a strong proponent of it. When I was a legislator in Massachusetts, I was a proponent of it. And now as secretary of labor, I really see on a nationwide level--

Obviously, those are kind of micro to Boston and Massachusetts. But now on a nationwide level, when I talk to employers in this country, almost every single person-- everyone I bring it up with, they all agree with immigration reform. And in some cases, people bring it up to me, we need a pathway for citizenship in the United States of America. We have to look at our immigration system. It's a threat to our economy.

When people talk about inflation being the threat to our economy, I mean, obviously that's a major concern. I think the biggest threat to our economy right now is not having enough workers moving forward. And when immigration is talked about, particularly on Capitol Hill, they talk about it as regards to the border and the southern border. That's not immigration.

We can create-- we can create pathways for immigration in our country. And we have to take advantage of the folks that want to work in the United States of America to fill those jobs that we need to continue to grow our economy.

JULIE HYMAN: I just want to switch gears for a moment in our last couple of questions here and ask you about the railroad agreement that seems to have--

MARTY WALSH: Yep.

JULIE HYMAN: --come forth. And that the strike is going to be averted. Still doesn't include the sick leave measures for the workers, which is what they were really holding out for. Is there anything you can do outside of this legislation, from your perspective, to help support those workers who do not have that paid sick leave?

MARTY WALSH: Yeah, certainly there is. And I just want to just back up a minute here. This negotiation was at a standstill until the administration got involved. The President appointed a PEB, the Presidential Emergency Board. It came back with recommendations. I had further negotiations in my office with the unions and the companies. We were able to get some other benefits there. And we were able to get a contract that has 24% increased wages, health care capped at 85-15, 85 out of the company, 15% out of pocket by the workers, additional language for work roles, and three unpaid days.

I think moving forward, my opinion and my comments and my discussions with the companies is going to be, you have to have real serious conversations with the unions to talk about what the future of your industry looks like in two ways. Number one is having a serious conversation about paid leave, paid sick leave for your workers, for your employees.

And number two, staffing up. Right now, the railroads in our country are severely understaffed. And these workers are overworked. And a lot of them were looking for additional days. Now, they were able to get three through a negotiation in my office, but they're looking for more because of understaffing-- in large part because of understaffing.

So I think it's important now, as we take the next step-- and I've told the companies this-- the representatives of the companies this. I plan on meeting with the companies to talk about it. I plan on talking to the unions and keeping these conversations moving forward.

Certainly, there's a lot of interest in helping these workers and making sure that there's sick leave provided-- paid sick leave provided for them. But this wasn't the only thing in the negotiation that the unions didn't get. There was other things that they asked for in negotiation, but through the negotiation process they weren't able to secure it.

But this is a strong contract minus the sick time, the paid sick leave. And that's what the workers will think. But it's a strong contract.

BRAD SMITH: Marty, just while we have here as well, we've continued to focus in on the labor force participation rate and particularly where people are not reentering into the workforce. What do you believe, from the White House perspective, that is going to need to be enacted for people who are on the sidelines, who want to get back into roles, or perhaps those who don't want to get back into roles to be part of that labor force participation?

MARTY WALSH: Well, we had that conversation this morning when I was going over the numbers here. And the one number that kind of jumped out at me was the increase in hospitality and retail and tourism that hadn't been there. We gained about, I think, 80-- almost 90,000 jobs this month.

And I know it's only a one-month indicator, it's only a one-month number, but that's a sector that hasn't come back fully. There's still a lot of people that were prepandemic working in that sector that haven't come back to work. And when I saw that number today, I was starting to think, are people starting to realize-- starting to get back into the sectors that they were in previously to the pandemic?

I think that it has to be a multiple approach. I think number one, we have to work very closely with businesses. And then we have to work with local governments on workforce development and job training because a lot of people that might have left an industry during COVID don't want to go back into that same industry.

But there's lots of opportunities for job openings in our country. There's lots of good jobs in our country that are available. And moving forward for the strength of our economy, we need to start helping people, skill them up to get them into better-paying jobs. And some people aren't-- they're not in the labor force for a whole host of reasons. But I think there's some work we can do in the new year here to hopefully get that number higher.

JULIE HYMAN: It's always good to get some time with you on this jobs day, US Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

MARTY WALSH: Thank you.