In last year’s State of the Union address, President Obama talked a lot about jobs. How they were lost, how hard they were to find and how they’d be created in the coming year. In fact, the president said the word “jobs” 23 times in a speech that ran just over an hour.
Now, one year later, as Obama gears up for his 2011 State of the Union address, it looks as if the job market is still a hot button issue, and rightly so. Unemployment hovered above 9.5 percent for much of 2010, and it’s estimated that more than a million people reached “99er” status last year, having maxed out their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.
With growth still obviously necessary in the job market, was any progress made in 2010? Below, a look at some of the key points from last year’s address and how things have panned out since.
Obama said: “That is why jobs must be our number-one focus in 2010, and that’s why I’m calling for a new jobs bill tonight.”
The jobs bill passed in March 2010, less than two months after the State of the Union address. The $38 billion bill provided tax exemptions for businesses that hired unemployed workers and promised tax credits to businesses that kept those workers on staff for more than a year. It also extended the highway construction program. While it’s hard to tell just how much of the progress made last year was a direct result of the bill, one thing is clear: The nation took a big step in the right direction. According to the BLS, employment rose by 1.1 million jobs in 2010, an average increase of 94,000 jobs per month. In comparison, during the first quarter of 2009, the economy lost an average of 691,000 jobs per month.
Obama said: “One in 10 Americans still cannot find work.”
At this time last year the unemployment rate hovered around 10 percent. In December 2010, it was 9.4 percent, meaning that nearly one in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Even with the progress made in 2010, there is still a ways to go to before unemployment reaches pre-recession levels.
Obama said: “Because of the steps we took [with the stimulus], there are about two million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed. Two hundred thousand work in construction and clean energy; 300,000 are teachers and other education workers. Tens of thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional officers, first responders. And we’re on track to add another one and a half million jobs to this total by the end of the year.”
A November 2010 report by the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was responsible for adding between 1.4 and 3.6 million jobs in the third quarter of 2010 alone, though the exact impact of the stimulus on the job market is a topic of debate amongst both economists and politicians. One thing that everyone agrees on, however, is that the largest effects of the stimulus are behind us. According to the CBO report from November, “The effects of ARRA on output peaked in the first half of 2010 and are now diminishing.” This means that we will soon find out whether the act created a sustainable growth in the economy, or if it was just a short-term fix.
Obama said: “We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities — and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs.”
In January 2010, Obama announced a $2.3 billion clean energy program as part of the ARRA that he hoped would create 17,000 new jobs. Then, six months later in July 2010, he allotted an additional $2 billion towards solar energy companies. According to Renewable Energy World, a clean energy news network, the solar power industry increased job count from 50,000 in 2009 to 100,000 in 2010, and predicts a growth rate of 26 percent in 2011.
So what do you think? Though it’s clear we’ve made progress, is it enough progress? What would you like to see the president discuss tomorrow night? Any suggestions for how to get the nation back on track? Let us know in the comments section.