The U.S. economy created a stronger-than-expected 163,000 jobs in July, bringing the average monthly rate for 2012 back above 150,000 after a grim second quarter. Manufacturing was a bright spot last month, adding 25,000 jobs, as the private sector added 172,000 jobs in total.
But the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.3% and the so-called real unemployment rate (U6) rose to 15% even as the labor force shrank by 150,000.
"I'm happy to see this report shows we continue to see steady [payroll] growth, but we still need to do a lot more," says Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. "We need to do everything we can to help create more jobs."
Among the things Secretary Solis is doing is continuing to prod Congress on advancing legislation such as the Transportation Bill and proposals to create jobs for teachers, firefighters and police hit by state and local government cuts.
"Proposals sitting on the Hill now for about 10 months could create about 1 million jobs in construction and in the public sector," Solis says. "We can do a lot if we can just sit down and be civil about the discussion and work through it. Given the political climate right now there's posturing going on."
As a political appointee, Solis is not averse to a little political posturing herself. As you'll see in the accompanying video, she's a strong advocate for President Obama, especially on the issue of providing tax cuts for the middle class.
That said, I give her credit for remaining civil when I asked her about the Romney campaign's claim that it could create 12 million jobs in its first term largely via a combination of lower taxes and budget cuts.
Rather than criticizing the plan for its lack of specifics, as some have done, or citing the Tax Policy Center's critique, Solis seemed to suggest Romney's proposals aren't so different than the President's, with one major exception.
"Obviously we want to see tax cuts for the middle class but we don't think those at very top...necessarily need to have more tax breaks," she said. "It hasn't trickled down. We think the best way is a balanced approach" of middle class tax cuts and "efforts to reign in budget spending."
For Washington, that's about as "civil" as the discourse gets these days.