Guest blog post by John Bryson , U.S. Secretary of Commerce
Today’s employment numbers are yet another indication that our economy is moving in the right direction. The unemployment rate dropped to 8.3 percent and 243,000 jobs were added in January, making this the 23rd consecutive month of job growth. Private sector job growth has been driving the decrease in unemployment, with the private sector adding 257,000 jobs last month. The manufacturing sector alone grew by 50,000 jobs in January, showing that manufacturing is still an important and growing part of the American economy. In the last two years, manufacturing added 330,000 jobs in the U.S. – the strongest growth since the 1990s. And today, we learned that new orders for manufactured goods rose 1.1 percent in December 2011.
Despite this, our work remains far from over. We need faster economic growth to put Americans back to work and we won’t let up until everyone who wants a job can find a job. We must redouble our efforts to create an economy that is built to last.
So what does that mean? I can tell you first hand. Over the past 10 days, I’ve traveled to Norfolk, Columbus and Pittsburgh to talk with businesses that are on the front lines of strengthening the elements of an economy built to last: American manufacturing, American energy, and training for American workers.
I’ve talked with manufacturers who are making everything from mattresses to advanced batteries. My message to them is a simple one: This Administration – this Department – wants to help more businesses like yours build it here and sell it everywhere.
We can and must build on the momentum the economy has gained in four key ways.
First, we need to extend the payroll tax cut and lower tax rates for manufacturers. In particular, we need to stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas, and start providing more incentives to businesses that keep jobs here.
Second, we need to encourage more investment in the U.S. – both foreign and domestic. That means more U.S. and foreign companies locating and expanding operations here. There are hopeful signs on that front, too. As labor and transportation costs rise in the developing world, making things in America is becoming a smarter business move by the day. The U.S. is home to cutting-edge research, strong supply chains, a talented and highly skilled workforce and the largest economy in the world. The Commerce Department, through its SelectUSA initiative, is working across the Administration to take unprecedented steps to sell the U.S. as the world’s premier investment destination.
Third, we need to build on the strong growth in U.S. exports over the past two years. Doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014 remains a top goal of the President’s National Export Initiative. Commerce Department trade specialists, in offices across the U.S. and in more than 70 countries around the world, are working hard to identify more foreign buyers, enforce trade rules, and ensure a level playing field. After all, when American businesses can compete fairly, American businesses can win.
Fourth and finally, we need to look to the future. We need to do more to support research and advanced manufacturing, such as the $90 million that the National Institute of Standards and Technology will invest this year in areas such as new materials discovery.
Indeed, today’s numbers are an encouraging sign that while our work at the Commerce Department and in the Administration is far from over, the initiatives and strategies we’ve launched in the last three years are helping to create an economy that’s about more than just short-term profits. It’s the beginning of an economy that’s built to last.