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'We still have work to do:' Labor Secretary Walsh on the jobs report

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Labor Secretary Marty Walsh joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the underwhelming jobs report, the factors contributing to this expectation miss, and how the government could help get women back into the workforce.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. I'm Julie Hyman. We had a jobs report that came in below estimates, just 194,000 jobs added last month. Joining us now is Labor Secretary Marty Walsh to react to this report in a what sounds like busy Washington there. Secretary Walsh, it's always great to see you and talk to you and get your perspective on this report. What's missing here, do you think, still? What is still holding back more jobs being added?

MARTY WALSH: You know, I find this report that we're looking at today is a complex report. And I don't think it's as bad as what everyone's reporting. We look at the sectors. Obviously, we had 194,000 jobs, 317,000 in the private sector. We saw gains in manufacturing and retail that are good to see. In some other areas, the hospitality number, about 74,000 job gain there. Unfortunately, it's under what people projected. And there's a direct correlation to the rise in the delta variant.

Also, in the educational sector, there's something going on there that we have to do some more research on and particularly the educational public sector number. I think a lot of people expected with school starting that we'd see that number a lot higher. And certainly, that's-- that number was, in some cases, not as disappoi-- I'll say it was disappointing.

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah, I wanted-- that's what I wanted to dig into with you a little bit. That decrease of 144,000 in local government education, 17,000 in state government education. You said you guys want to do a little bit more research on that. I mean, what does that look like? Where do you-- what steps do you take to try to figure out what happened there?

MARTY WALSH: Well, I think just at first glance, looking at it, I think what we're seeing in the the rest of the job market with the amount of jobs that are open and not having as much participation in the job market as would like, some of those folks that are not in the job market right now looking for work are part of those folks that would be working in the school department. You know, so I think that we have some work to do there, no question about it.

Also, I mean, when we think about the times that we're living in that we've added 5 million jobs, roughly 5 million jobs since President Biden has taken over, the unemployment rate is under 5%. And if you compare it, which I know it's not a comparison, but you compare it to the Great Recession, it took us till 2016 to get under 5% in the Great Recession. In this particular case, the president and the administration, we've done it in about 19, 20 months. So it's definitely we have work to do there.

Also, on some bright sides, I mean, three months ago, I was on the show with you, talking about women participation, concerned about women coming back into the workforce. Today, the women unemployment rate is 4.2%, which is low. The Black women unemployment rate is 7.3%, which is good. I mean, so we're seeing in areas that I had concerns about several months ago, we're seeing some of those sectors opening up and bringing more people on.

But there's no question about it. There's still work to do here. And the issue that we're dealing with here today, what we're talking about, this is all over the world. I mean, this is-- other economies all over the world, they have the same situations, people not participating, people not coming back to work. So we still have some work to do here.

BRIAN SOZZI: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned the women in the workforce. I mean, women continue to leave the workforce for a number of reasons. We've been talking about it all morning long. What could the administration do to help alleviate these pressures?

MARTY WALSH: Well, I think one of the things that we did, the president did in the American Rescue Plan, is make an investment in child care. I think that's a big issue here in our country, and lack of child care. Secondly, I think the fact that schools opened last month, I think that helped people as well. And schools are in person. They're not hybrid this year. I think that's another help here. I think, in some cases, that the higher wages are helping us as well, getting more and more people back into the-- particularly women into the workforce.

And then, longer term, the Build Back Better agenda, the bipartisan-- the Build Back Better bill that's being discussed right now and negotiated and debated right now, in that, there's investments in the CARES economy, getting people-- more and more people skills and job training to get into the CARES economy.

That's one number this month that we saw also, and actually, last month, drop, lose people, was the area of health care in hospitals and nursing and also in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. That's concerning long-term. Actually, it's concerning short-term. We have people that need those facilities, and we're losing workers in those areas. So that's something that we all have to collectively get on.

JULIE HYMAN: Let's pick up on that, Secretary Walsh, because we have heard on an anecdotal basis that some workers are leaving professions where they're required to be vaccinated. I know my co-anchor Brian Sozzi knows some folks who are healthcare workers who-- where that has happened. I'm not suggesting that there should not be vaccination mandates, particularly when we're talking about healthcare. But what do you do about that if there are those people who just don't want to get vaccinated in order to have those jobs?

MARTY WALSH: I don't think that sect was just about vaccination. I mean, the vaccination, what I'm hearing, the number of people that do not want to get vaccinated in that medical industry, we're talking 1% to 2%. I think that what people have gone through this last year and a half has really opened a lot of people's eyes.

I had two conversations, very important conversations over the last two months. One was in Arizona. I met with some hospital CEOs and the mayor of Phoenix, Arizona. And we were talking about the need for bringing more nurses on, the shortage we have. And I was talking to a doctor the other night who's taking care of my mother from Mass General Hospital and said, again, the nursing shortage.

We have 60,000 people in this country that are on a waiting list to get into nursing programs. We need to alleviate that burden. We need to create pathways and get more programs open for nursing programs in our country and also mental health services. In the Build Back Better agenda, there's a major investment in community colleges. We have an opportunity to partner community colleges with those waiting lists to create a pipeline of nurses and medical professionals in a very short period of time into an industry that needs it.

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah, that's a great point about the pipeline. Speaking of pathways, there's one other question I wanted to ask you about second chance workers. This is an area I've been exploring as of late-- that is, people who have criminal records-- and both removing the stigma and the legal barriers to getting those folks back in the workforce and helping them fill some of these jobs. What do you think the federal government should and can do on that front?

MARTY WALSH: Well, I think I'm going to say to you right now. I mean, as a former mayor of Boston, a lot of the people that I brought working to meet with me in City Hall were people that were formerly incarcerated or struggling with addiction or struggling with substance use disorder.

We have-- I'm asking employers to take a look at these folks, give them an opportunity, give them a chance because some of the folks that we brought on City Hall and have created some programs as mayor, the best workers you could ever have. Because people want to rebuild their life. They want an opportunity. The problem is they don't have that opportunity. So I'm asking people to do that.

Secondly, in the Build Back Better infrastructure bill that we're debating right now or that's being debated right now on Capitol Hill, right over my shoulder, there is money-- job force training money in that for second chance programs and reentry programs.

And we really-- if we don't help people that are formerly incarcerated or incarcerated when they come out, you know what's going to happen? They don't have any opportunities, they go right back to the corner they came on, and they end up right back in jail. And if you ask any one of them and you say, what do you need, they need a chance. They need a job. So I'm asking people to help them.

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah, and that is definitely what I heard from workers who had gotten opportunities and were able to go back to work. Secretary Walsh, great to get some time with you this morning, as always. Secretary Marty Walsh of the Labor Department, really appreciate it.