Dept. of Labor economist says work must continue to eliminate economic disparities

By: - October 26, 2021 9:30 am

Department of Labor economist Janelle Jones keynoting the Michigan League for Public Policy conference, Oct. 25, 2021 | Screenshot

Janelle Jones, chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor, shared her vision of an equitable economic future for working people in Michigan and around the country at the Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP) conference on Monday.

Jones was the keynote speaker for the “Getting Back to the Future: Securing an Equitable Recovery for Michigan” online policy forum that had more than 700 attendees from around Michigan. 

Jones, the first Black woman to serve in her position, said the mission of the Department of Labor is to empower all workers. 

“We won’t stop until we build a modern, inclusive workforce where workers have good opportunities, good jobs, and seats at the table,” said Jones, who emphasizes the protection of workers while both on and off the job.

The conference was focused on achieving an inclusive economic transformation, particularly while combatting the COVID-19 pandemic and structural racism. The MLPP is a Lansing-based nonprofit policy institute focused on advancing economic security, racial equity, health and well-being for all people in Michigan. 

Jones noted 4.7 million jobs have been added to the economy since President Joe Biden took office in January, including an average of 550,000 jobs per month over the past three months. Wages also continue to go up as workers have more power, Jones added, recognizing that essential workers, particularly women and people of color, have continued to work during this pandemic over the past 18 months and have historically been the last to see the benefits of a recovery.

Jones also acknowledged that essential workers, especially women, have had to experience the challenges in having to choose between going to work or taking care of their families. 

“The simple reality is that we cannot get to full employment and inclusive recovery if millions of families have to make the choice between caregiving responsibilities and going to work,” Jones said.

Jones noted Black unemployment rate remains elevated at 7.9% — above the national rate of 4.8% in September. She said the Department of Labor is reviewing current policies to assess how underserved communities continue to be affected during the pandemic.

Jones, who said she has been on the job now for 280 days, stressed the goal of eliminating racial disparities will take time and continues to be an ongoing mission. A top priority is Congress passing Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, which boosts spending on climate change, health care, education and other initiatives. Jones said it will aid essential workers and marginalized workers, including those with disabilities, and strengthen the economic recovery.

This was the final forum hosted by Gilda Z. Jacobs, MLPP president and CEO, who is retiring at the end of the year. Attendees of the forum had the opportunity to hear from incoming CEO Monique Stanton. 

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Shanika P. Carter
Shanika P. Carter

Shanika P. Carter is a freelance writer, author, and adjunct communications instructor. She is also the Principal Consultant of The Write Flow & Vibe, LLC (www.writeflowandvibe.com), offering writing, editing, and content development services to a variety of clientele, including fellow authors and businesses. Shanika has written for various publications, including Blackdoctor.org, The Lakeshore West Michigan, Rapid Growth Media, Grander Magazine, and Women’s Lifestyle Magazine. She is the author of the nonfiction book To Lead or Not to Lead, which was released in 2019.

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