A Year of Action Supporting Computer Science for All

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In President Obama’s final State of the Union Address, he issued a bold call to action to give every child the opportunity to learn computer science. He did so because computing is becoming increasingly relevant to America’s economy, cybersecurity, and national security. 

He also thinks it’s a lot of fun!

Since then, 2016 has been a year of action in support of computer science, with new announcements made today. This year alone, 14 new states have expanded CS education, more than 500 organizations have responded to the President’s call to action, and a new AP-CS course launched this fall that is already being offered in more than 2,000 classrooms. In addition, 15 federal agencies are coordinating efforts to expand CS education, with new investments and guidance. 

Learn more about all of today’s announcements

As a year of action 2016 builds on a decade of national, state, and grassroots activity to revitalize K-12 computer science education. A clear example of that steady growth and momentum has been Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek).

First launched in 2009 with a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives, and timed in recognition of the birthday of computing pioneer and Medal of Freedom recipient Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, CSEdWeek has since grown into a global event celebrated worldwide where millions of students, educators, parents, and industry volunteers participate in events and activities to inform and educate students about computer science and career opportunities in technology. 

CSA
Students and families learn coding together during Family Code Night at Riverside Unified School District organized in collaboration with the Inland Code Consortium, a new effort to bring computer science to nine school districts across the Inland Empire of California. Photo Credit: RUSD Communications

In 2013, President Obama kicked off CSEdWeek with a video message urging students to try their hands at computer science saying, “don’t just play on your phone, program it.”

During CSEdWeek 2014, President Obama became the first President to write computer code as a part of a student coding activity at the White House, and last year the White House hosted the CS Tech Jam to bring developers, educators, and students together to develop new innovations for CS education. 

This week, Obama administration officials, alongside hundreds of local and national organizations, are joining community-led CSEdWeek events across the nation, ranging from the Inland CSforAll Summit, which brings together school districts and community partners across central California, to the BotBall Junior tournament in Oklahoma City where 1,000 students will show off their software skills as they compete with autonomous robots, to the “Cuppa Code” meet-up for new CS teachers and tech professionals in Arlington, Virginia, hosted by CodeVA and Starbucks to the General Services Administration’s “Grace Hopper” Hackathon for open government.

Find an event in your community, and join the movement to bring computer science to all of our children!

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Celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities

“The changes achieved in the last two decades speak to what people can accomplish when they refuse to accept the world as it is. Today let us once again reach for the world that should be — one where all people, regardless of country or disability, enjoy equal access, equal opportunity, and the freedom to realize their limitless potential.”

An interpreter signs in the foreground while President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden, delivers remarks during a reception for the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the East Room of the White House, July 20, 2015.
An interpreter signs in the foreground while President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden, delivers remarks during a recetion for the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the East Room of the White House, July 20, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities — a day to unify around ensuring a better, more equitable world. An annual celebration promoted by the United Nations since 1992, the day is dedicated to helping spread awareness and understanding of disability issues while championing the extraordinary achievements and contributions of persons with disabilities across the globe. 

This year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities theme is dedicated to assessing the current status of Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, which lay foundation to create a more inclusive and diverse future.

Currently, around 1 billion people live with a disability, making up around 15 percent of the world’s total population. Since taking office, President Obama has been committed to nurturing a society that values the contributions of all citizens, at home and abroad — from expanding educational and employment opportunities for people with disabilities, to enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act, to increasing accessibility to innovation and technology, to signing the CRPD. Read more on our progress here.

While we have come a long way as a society since the first International Day of Persons with Disabilities 24 years ago — but we still have more work to do in combating discrimination and removing the barriers that remain.

A lifelong advocate for disability rights, Judith Heumann is internationally recognized leader in the disability community and a lifelong civil rights advocate for disadvantaged people. Heumann currently serves as Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State, a position that President Obama created and appointed her to in 2010.

We had the chance to ask Heumann some important questions about the progress we’ve made under the Obama administration, how you can get involved, and where we can go from here. Check out her answers below: 

How did you first become involved with the disability rights movement?

“When I applied for my first job as a teacher, I was initially denied my certification simply because I could not walk.”

As a child, I, like more than 1 million other American children with disabilities, did not have the benefit of attending inclusive schools. Although access to quality education is critical to an individual’s future employment prospects, we were not allowed to attend school. I was nine years old before I went to school and even then I was placed in classes only for disabled children. 

Although I later attended university and earned my Bachelor’s degree, levels of inaccessibility prevalent at that time made it clear that employment was not something our government anticipated we would have. When I applied for my first job as a teacher, I was initially denied my certification simply because I could not walk. I went to court and sued the Board of Education to obtain my certificate to teach, and finally did get a job teaching elementary school children.

As a person with a significant disability who uses a motorized wheelchair and is able to travel extensively, I have been able to set an example to others in the U.S. and around the world about what it is possible to achieve. I learned from my parents early on that I have to have high expectations, and as a result I don’t take no for an answer.  By sharing those high expectations with other people, together we’ve been able to really make dramatic changes here and around the world.

What are some ways you have worked to improve rights, equality, and inclusion for persons with disabilities as the Special Advisor for International Disability Rights and why is this role so important?

The Department of State conducts our nation’s foreign relations, engaging not only with foreign governments, but also with media, universities, business, and civil society. We address a broad range of global issues, including human rights, and I have used my time as Special Advisor to expand disability rights-related work across the Department of State and integrate that into our human rights diplomacy. 

We secured policy guidance on the importance of promoting disability inclusive diplomacy as a key part of U.S. foreign policy from Secretaries Clinton and Kerry. Our Foreign Service, Civil Service, and Locally Employed Staff are more active than ever in addressing the breadth of disabilities and identifying human rights violations toward people with disabilities, including trafficking of and violence against people with disabilities.

I have engaged Chiefs of Mission about using disability rights to reach important audiences, and secured support for marking the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related recognition events. As a result, we have more comprehensive reporting on human rights abuses faced by persons with disabilities in the congressionally mandated Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.  We have worked with likeminded states to elevate disability rights work within APEC and OSCE. We also participated in securing critical references to persons with disabilities in the revised World Bank Safeguards, Sustainable Development Goals, and numerous UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions.  

Was there a particular moment made you realize you wanted to work for this administration?

I have had so many. One moment to highlight was President Obama’s commitment that the U.S. ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. While the Senate failed to recommend that the President ratify the CRPD, the efforts of his administration never faltered. He believes that laws like the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, are examples of why the U.S. is a world leader in removing barriers and discrimination on the basis of disability. He is still committed to the ratification, and I do hope that the next Congress will recognize the importance of our ratification and act accordingly.

How have you seen this administration move the ball forward?

In 2010, President Obama issued Executive Order 13548, which calls upon federal government departments and agencies to improve recruitment, hiring, retention, and advancement of persons with disabilities. Government agencies developed plans and published statistics on progress toward achieving the goals of the Executive Order. In 2012, total permanent employment in the federal government for persons with disabilities had increased to 11.89 piercent, with more people with disabilities in federal service both in real terms and by percentage than at any time in the past 32 years.

In the State Department, I am also encouraged by the increase in the number of new hires with disabilities. The support of Secretaries Clinton and Kerry has been instrumental in making this progress. The Department this year created the Office of Accessibility & Accommodations to strengthen our ongoing provision of reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, and increase access to physical and virtual workspaces. 

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

“The World Bank estimates that there are 1 billion people — 15 percent of the world’s population — with disabilities.”

Integrating disability rights into the Department’s human rights work has been a welcome challenge, and much has been accomplished in my six and a half years as the Special Advisor. The position of the Special Advisor is in itself an achievement – putting the issues of disability rights on the map, on the agenda for our work in bilateral and multilateral settings. We have worked office by office, bureau by bureau in Washington, and with our diplomatic missions overseas, to show how the U.S. record on disability rights and our advocacy for raising standards internationally can be a powerful tool for U.S. global leadership. I have tried to lead by example, and have benefited from the President’s personal commitment to inclusion as well as cooperation throughout the Department.

The World Bank estimates that there are 1 billion people — 15 percent of the world’s population — with disabilities. That is why efforts such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are vital. Over 165 countries have signed on to the convention, and I am looking forward to additional ratifications, including by the United States.  We have found, in our activities worldwide, that the CRPD has increased the empowerment of persons with disabilities and expanded disability rights movements. The State Department has increased its engagement with these groups, supporting the development of vibrant organizations within broader civil society.  This role is key to moving beyond the signature and ratification stage to the more important tasks of enacting implementing legislation and enforcing policies and standards that protect the rights of persons with disabilities. 

What do you see as the future of the disability rights movement both here at home and abroad?

When we talk about disabled people and the disability rights movement, it is very important to keep in mind the broad range of people including those of us with physical disabilities as well as those with developmental, intellectual, or psychosocial disabilities. All disabled people have the right to enjoy our human rights on an equal basis with others in all areas of our lives, including in our access to education, employment, and the ability to participate as full citizens in our respective societies.

I would also ask that we — all of us, not just people in the disability rights community — look at issues through a lens of disability, rather than looking at specific issues separately, or as only issues for the disabled community. And by that, I mean that we need to look at how cross-cutting issues impact persons with disabilities — not for special treatment, but because the way we approach them for the disabled community can help inform the approach we take for everyone.

For example, how we protect the rights of disabled victims of violence can improve how we protect all those who are vulnerable to violence.  Improving educational and health care services, and training of professionals for services to persons with disabilities, can improve institutional capacity for all citizens, both now and into the future. In the area of accessibility, breaking barriers provides opportunities to those individuals who have difficulty walking, or who may have baby carriages, or who may have shopping carts or are carrying things that are heavy. Ramps on corners help everyone. Accessible buses and accessible trains help people all over the world, and accessible buildings — including accessible bathrooms, things having Braille on them — that helps everyone also.  

How can Americans help advance human rights for persons with disabilities and get involved as advocates in their communities this International Day of Persons with Disabilities?

“I have also observed that when disabled people from other countries come to the United States, when they leave the United States, one of the things they say is how they don’t feel different, regardless of their disability.”

As the world becomes smaller through globalization, it is critically important that the U.S. exercise its hard-earned leadership in expanding the recognition of the rights of disabled individuals. Ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), among its benefits, will help veterans and civilians have equal opportunities overseas to what their non-disabled peers have, such as the ability to study abroad, the ability to travel abroad, and the ability to work abroad. 

I have also observed that when disabled people from other countries come to the United States, when they leave the United States, one of the things they say is how they don’t feel different, regardless of their disability. They feel that they can move around the community, that they’re not disenfranchised from being here. And I think that’s a very positive thing to say, that our laws, when effectively implemented over time, not only are removing physical barriers and barriers in other areas, but through the removal of these barriers are enabling people to come together across the country and really value each other for who we are, not for our sexual preference, our race, disability, et cetera. Most people, of course, are not engaged in international diplomacy, but are active in their home communities doing what they can to respond to the concerns of persons with disabilities.

I would ask that people take opportunities — not only on December 3, as this is a 365-day-a-year challenge — to listen to their fellow citizens with disabilities, and work with them to find and advance solutions. This is what has made the U.S. a strong model for disability rights advocates around the world, and we can do more to strengthen that model, working together. 

Jazmin Kay is an intern in the Office of Digital Strategy. 

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Weekly Address: Pass the 21st Century Cures Act

In this week’s address, President Obama highlighted the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill in Congress that could help us find a cure for Alzheimer’s, end cancer as we know it, and help those who are seeking treatment for opioid addiction.This week, the House passed the bill overwhelmingly with bipartisan support — and the President called on the Senate to do the same when they vote in a few days. Because that’s what this is all about: coming to a compromise based on the belief that we should seize every chance we have to find cures as soon as possible.

Transcript | MP4 | MP3

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West Wing Week 12/1/16 or, "Push a Button and It's Electrified!"

The holidays have arrived! It’s been a busy here in the White House as we get ready for the holiday season – from First Lady, Michelle Obama receiving the Official White House Christmas tree, to her welcoming military families to the White House to preview the holiday decorations, to President Obama meeting with the 2016 American Nobel Peace Prize winners, to the First Family closing out the week by attending the National Christmas Tree Lighting. Get into the holiday spirit and watch this week’s episode of West Wing Week.

On Friday, First Lady, Michelle Obama received the official White House Christmas Tree, joined by her nephews.

On Tuesday, First Lady, Michelle Obama unveiled the 2016 holiday decorations and welcomed military families to the White House as part of her Joining Forces initiative.

On Wednesday, President Obama welcomed the 2016 American Nobel Peace Prize recipients Dr. F. Duncan Haldane, Dr. Oliver Hart, Dr. J. Michael Kosterlitz, and Sir J. Fraser Stoddart, to the Oval Office.

Thursday, President Obama commerated World AIDS Day by honoring those who are leading the fight against HIV and AIDS.

POTUS Aids Day

Later in the evening, the First Family attended the National Christmas Tree Lighting held at the Ellipse. The holiday celebration was hosted by Eva Longoria and featured a line-up of performances by Yolanda Adams, The Lumineers, Chance the Rapper, Kelly Clarkson, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, March Anthony, Afro Blue, James Taylor, and the Airmen of Note.

Yolanda Adams performs during the National Christmas Tree lighting on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Yolanda Adams performs during the National Christmas Tree lighting on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

 

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha join performers on stage to sing "Jingle Bells" during the National Christmas Tree lighting event on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha join performers on stage to sing “Jingle Bells” during the National Christmas Tree lighting event on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Crystal Miller is an intern for the Office of Digital Strategy.

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What’s Next for TechHire

The premise behind the TechHire initiative is simple: Give more people the skills they need to succeed in the tech jobs that employers are struggling to fill. The initiative started with 21 cities, states, and rural areas from St. Louis to Eastern Kentucky, teaming up with 300 companies to train and source a diverse tech workforce from atypical backgrounds. As U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith puts it, these communities are tapping into talent that was previously “hiding in plain sight.”

Nearly two years later, TechHire has grown to over 70 communities, 20 of which launched yesterday. Nearly 4,000 people have been placed into jobs paying well above the average private-sector median wage. Companies like GE Digital, JP Morgan, and Capital One are hiring talent based on candidates’ demonstrated abilities, rather than the names on their degrees.

What we have learned from these communities is that people can learn the skills they need to succeed in tech jobs in a matter of months, not years. And with nearly 600,000 open technology jobs across all industries and regions in the country today, we need to continue spreading these models to meet the demand.

That’s why the TechHire initiative was designed to rely on communities across the country coming together to take coordinated action that leverages existing funding. TechHire communities have been using funds that the federal government already spends on job training and reemployment services.  To make sure we can build on that progress, the U.S. Department of Education announced a partnership this week with Opportunity@Work to continue growing the TechHire network.

The growth and success of TechHire will come from the same source it has to date: grassroots partners. These employers, innovative training programs, local government, workforce development organizations, and others in communities are collaborating to push the boundaries of the status quo, using strategies such as:

  • Hiring based on skill, not pedigree: Giving people the chance to get hired based on what they show they can actually do, rather than what’s listed on a resume;
  • Training in months, not years: Training people with the skills to get entry-level tech jobs in months-long immersive and on-the-job training, rather than four years at a university;
  • A “pay for success” training model: Creating training programs with sufficiently high returns (based on increased wages) such that the training provider or a third-party investor would be willing to bear the up-front risks associated with the program;
  • Broadening the circle of opportunity: Fostering opportunities for adults to get on a pathway to the middle class regardless of where they start, including low-income Americans, minorities, veterans, and the long-term unemployed. 

Here’s more on what’s happening around the country.

Akron, Ohio

William
William

Since Akron joined the TechHire initiative, over 250 students have graduated from local training partners, more than half of whom have been placed into full-time jobs with 75 companies, with an average starting salary of $52,000. To improve connections between graduates that need jobs and employers that need tech talent, TechHire Akron will participate in the national “Race to Place” pilot hiring platform, coordinated by Opportunity@Work. This pilot will give employers a way to identify and assess potential tech talent, and help graduates to find “good-fit” job opportunities.
William is one of the people who has benefited from Akron’s work. William was making $12 an hour when he decided to pursue an intensive, 12-week coding bootcamp with the Software Guild in Akron. Of the experience, he later said, “there were plenty of times when I thought I would not make it, but I fought through it.” After graduating, he landed a job as a computer programmer, with a starting salary of $50,000 and the opportunity to continue growing his tech skills. He has since been promoted.

Colorado

Jessey
Jessey

In Colorado, partner organizations have reported over 1,000 individuals trained with tech skills since TechHire Colorado first launched as one of the original TechHire communities. The vast majority of TechHire graduates in Colorado have found full-time tech jobs in a variety of industries.

Jessey Eagan is one such individual. Jessey was once a second-grade teacher and a children’s director at church, interested to make a career change. Seeking opportunity, she picked up her family and moved from Illinois to Colorado for a 10-week intensive coding bootcamp with RefactorU. In the end, her family’s sacrifice was worth it: Jessey now works full-time as a quality assurance web automation engineer at MakeMusic.

Given the success stories of existing TechHire communities, it came as no surprise that more communities sought to participate in the initiative. As a result, this week we announced over 20 additional new communities that will invest in and scale strategies that work. 

Boston, Massachusetts

Brian
Brian

Boston is one of the communities that signed on to TechHire this week. In Boston, a regional consortium of employers and training providers are blazing the path to IT jobs, led by the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC), the City’s workforce development board, and SkillWorks, a regional funders’ collaborative. Companies from a range of sectors — including healthcare, education, government, technology, and finance — will help develop training and hiring pipelines for the skills they need. Through TechHire, Boston plans to more than double the number of high school Tech Apprentices from 100 to 250 and increase the number of individuals connected to IT-related jobs to 500 by 2020.

One of Boston’s early success stories is that of Brian Madrigal, a young Mexican-American man from East Boston. Relentlessly optimistic and hardworking, Brian enrolled in Resilient Coders, a local program for young people to learn to code. Today, Brian is a User Experience apprentice at Fresh Tilled Soil, one of the most prestigious design agencies in Boston. 

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Preston
Preston

The tech scene in Tulsa, OK is already growing, with support from local organizations including 36 Degrees North, Techlahoma, and a number of workforce and education partners. With strong backing from the Mayor’s Office, Tulsa decided to apply for TechHire, with a plan to train and place 600 people—with an emphasis on women and young people—into tech jobs across sectors by 2020. 

The community’s enthusiasm for tech training is based on stories like that of Preston Schwartz. Preston was a hard-working mechanic, in a physically demanding job with little room for upward mobility. Seeking new opportunity, he enrolled in a local OK Coders class to learn software development. Impressed by Preston’s progress over the 10-week boot camp, one of his teachers offered him a job as a Junior Front End Developer for his company, Hire 360. In that role, Preston is able to better provide for his family and to continue to grow his coding skills.

Rhode Island

Nick
Nick

TechHire Rhode Island (TechHireRI) joined the TechHire network in late 2015. This statewide initiative is partnering closely with Governor Raimondo, CommerceRI, the RI Department of Labor and Training, and many education and training partners, on a goal to place 2,000 Rhode Islanders into IT jobs by 2020. 

In 2016, TechHireRI has grown to include nearly 200 employer partners. Its education partners have trained about 250 people, about 200 of whom have been placed in IT and software developer positions. To expand access to training, TechHireRI has worked with training partners LaunchCode and General Assembly to stand up a full scholarship program for accelerated coding courses, which benefits nearly 250 Rhode Islanders. And so far this fall, GE Digital has hired one-third of the staff in its new office in Providence through TechHireRI.

One of the new GE Digital hires is Nick Wilcox. Nick’s job as a strength coach offered little room for growth, so he began experimenting with web development — for fun and with zero formal training. He was intrigued with trying something radically new, failing, then trying again, and before long, decided to make a career out of it. He enrolled in General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive, which was not only more affordable than a traditional degree, but quicker — 12 weeks, as compared to four years. And today, he’s a front-end developer with a significantly higher salary than what he was earning as a trainer.

Ryan Burke, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy

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The Employment Situation in November

The economy added a solid 178,000 jobs in November as the longest streak of total job growth on record continued. U.S. businesses have now added 15.6 million jobs since early 2010. The unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent in November, its lowest level since August 2007, and the broadest measure of underemployment fell for the second month in a row. Average hourly earnings for private employees have increased at an annual rate of 2.7 percent so far in 2016, faster than the pace of inflation. Nevertheless, more work remains to ensure that the benefits of the recovery are broadly shared, including opening new markets to U.S. exports; taking steps to spur competition to benefit consumers, workers, and entrepreneurs; and raising the minimum wage.

FIVE KEY POINTS ON THE LABOR MARKET IN NOVEMBER 2016

1. U.S. businesses have now added 15.6 million jobs since private-sector job growth turned positive in early 2010. Today, we learned that private employment rose by 156,000 jobs in November. Total nonfarm employment rose by 178,000 jobs, in line with the monthly average for 2016 so far and substantially higher than the pace of about 80,000 jobs per month that CEA estimates is necessary to maintain a low and stable unemployment rate given the impact of demographic trends on labor force participation. 

In November, the unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent, its lowest level since August 2007. The labor force participation rate ticked down, though it is largely unchanged over the last three years (see point 3 below). The U-6 rate, the broadest official measure of labor underutilization fell 0.2 percentage point for the second month in a row in part due to a reduction in the number of employees working part-time for economic reasons. (The U-6 rate is the only official measure of underutilization that has not already fallen below its pre-recession average.) So far in 2016, nominal hourly earnings for private-sector workers have increased at an annual rate of 2.7 percent, faster than the pace of inflation (1.6 percent as of October, the most recent data available).

Private-Sector Payroll Employment

2. New CEA analysis finds that State minimum wage increases since 2013 contributed to substantial wage increases for workers in low-wage jobs, with no discernible impact on employment. In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to raise the Federal minimum wage, which has remained at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Even as Congress has failed to act, 18 States and the District of Columbia—along with dozens of local government jurisdictions—have answered the President’s call to action and have raised their minimum wages. (In addition to the States that have already raised their minimum wages, voters in four States approved measures to raise the minimum wage in November.) To assess the impact of minimum wage increases implemented by States in recent years, CEA analyzed data from the payroll survey for workers in the leisure and hospitality industry—a group who tend to earn lower wages than those in other major industry groups and thus are most likely to be affected by changes in the minimum wage. As the chart below shows, hourly earnings grew substantially faster for leisure and hospitality workers in States that raised their minimum wages than in States that did not. By comparing trends in wage growth for the two groups, CEA estimates that increases in the minimum wage led to an increase of roughly 6.6 percent in average wages for these workers. At the same time—consistent with a large body of economic research that has tended to find little or no impact of past minimum wage increases on employment—leisure and hospitality employment followed virtually identical trends in States that did and did not raise their minimum wage since 2013. (See here for more details on CEA’s analysis.)

Average Hourly Earnings, Leisure and Hospitality

Total Employment, Leisure and Hospitality

3. The strengthening labor market is drawing individuals into the labor force, offsetting downward pressure on employment growth from the aging of the population. Employment growth depends on three factors: population growth, the rate at which the population participates in the labor force, and the share of the labor force that is employed. The chart below decomposes employment growth (from the household survey) into contributions from each of these factors for each year of the current recovery. It further decomposes labor force participation into shifts attributable to demographics (such as the aging of the U.S. population) and shifts attributable to other factors (such as the business cycle). Throughout the recovery, demographic changes in labor force participation—primarily driven by a large increase in retirement by baby boomers that began in 2008—have consistently weighed on employment growth. In recent years, however, non-demographic changes in labor force participation have supported employment growth, as the strengthening of the labor market and increasing real wages have drawn more individuals into the labor force. The entry (or reentry) of workers into the labor force has helped employment growth maintain its recent solid pace even as the unemployment rate has fallen more slowly. These two shifts in labor force participation—demographic and non-demographic—have largely offset one another in recent months, and as a result the overall labor force participation rate has remained broadly stable since the end of 2013.

Decomposition of Employment Growth in the Recovery

4. The number of unemployed workers per job opening, an indicator of labor market slack, is near its lowest level prior to the recession. Using data from the household survey and the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, the chart below plots the ratio of unemployed workers to total job openings. In the recession, unemployment rose rapidly while job openings plummeted, sending the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings to a record peak of 6.6 in July 2009. As the unemployment rate has decreased over the course of the recovery, and as job openings have climbed to record highs this year, the ratio of unemployed workers to openings has fallen steeply, standing at 1.4 as of September (the most recent data available for openings). This is close to the ratio’s lowest level in the 2000s expansion, another indicator—in addition to recent increases in real wages—of a strengthening labor market.

Unemployed Workers per Job Opening, 2001-2016

5. The distribution of job growth across industries in November diverged from the pattern over the past year. Above-average gains relative to the past year were seen in professional and business services (+49,000, excluding temporary help services), while mining and logging (which includes oil extraction) posted a gain (+2,000) for the second time in recent months amid moderation in oil prices. On the other hand, retail trade (-8,000), information services (-10,000), and financial activities (+6,000) all saw weaker-than-average growth. Slow global growth has continued to weigh on the manufacturing sector, which is more export-oriented than other industries and which posted a loss of 4,000 jobs in November. Across the 17 industries shown below, the correlation between the most recent one-month percent change and the average percent change over the last twelve months was -0.06, the lowest level since September 2012.

Employment Growth by Industry

As the Administration stresses every month, the monthly employment and unemployment figures can be volatile, and payroll employment estimates can be subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, and it is informative to consider each report in the context of other data as they become available.

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How to See the White House on a Dollar Bill

Get the 1600 app now to experience the White House in augmented reality.

IOS   Android


What’s it like to attend a state dinner at the White House? Or see Marine One land on the South Lawn?

From hosting festivals on the South Lawn to allowing people to explore its rooms via Google Street View, President Obama has used traditional events and new technology to open up the doors of the White House to more Americans than ever before.

Today, we’re excited to share a new way for you to experience 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — and all you need is a smartphone and a dollar bill.

Watch the White House appear on a one dollar bill with the new 1600 app.

Check it out now: Download the app, point your smartphone camera at a dollar bill, and you’ll see an interactive, 3D video of White House pop up – narrated by yours truly.

As you experience a year at the White House – from the Easter Egg Roll to a State Arrival Ceremony – you’ll see that even as seasons and people change, the White House endures as an institution of American democracy. That’s why we teamed up with the White House Historical Association and Nexus Studios to create this augmented reality experience to educate and inspire Americans to learn all about what the People’s House stands for.

Whether it’s seen on a teacher’s desk or around a dining room table, we hope you enjoy and share this new way of taking a peek inside the White House.

So, give it a try: If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can download 1600 here. Or if you have an Android phone or Android tablet, you can get it here.

Check it out!

Josh

Josh Earnest
Press Secretary
The White House
@PressSec

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What's Next for Criminal Justice Reform

U.S. Senator Cory Booker sent the following message to the White House email list ahead of a White House convening on criminal justice reform. You can tune in below at 2:30pm ET:


If someone had pulled aside the signers of the Declaration of Independence 240 years ago and told them that, one day, the country they founded would be home to the largest number of imprisoned people in the world, they might have been more than a little disappointed.

Yet this is where we find our country today: The United States, founded on the basis of liberty and justice for all, suffers from that distinction. Twenty five percent of all imprisoned people on our planet are imprisoned right here in America. And the fact of the matter is that, at the federal level, the majority of those imprisoned aren’t hardened, violent prisoners. Far too many are nonviolent, low-level drug offenders. 

Thanks to policies enacted by Congress, our federal prison population has exploded by nearly 800 percent over the past the 30 years. And to pay for it, we’ve had to increase our prison spending by almost 400 percent. But the fact that these polices were enacted by our government in the first place should serve as a reminder that we have the agency to change them.

Momentum is building across America — in states, in the federal government, in both political parties — to change this misapplication of justice that so grossly misrepresents our priorities as a nation.

A diverse coalition of individuals, groups, and organizations — ranging from Democrats to Republicans to law enforcement officials and clergy — have come together to call for a comprehensive change in the trajectory of our justice system. And under President Obama’s leadership, the collective vision of these groups has found a home and a voice in the White House.

I have been proud to stand by President Obama as he has taken courageous steps in recent years to make our justice system more just.

Today, the White House is announcing that over 300 companies and organizations have signed the Fair Chance Business Pledge, a commitment to eliminate unnecessary hiring barriers facing people with a criminal record. Along with this step and a series of Administrative actions to enhance the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, he’s shown that the federal government can lead the way to progress.

President Obama has created a legacy of bold action that we must carry on to elevate the cause of criminal justice reform, from Congress to statehouses across the country.

Learn more about what’s at stake in the effort to reform our broken criminal justice system: Make sure to check out the White House discussion today, where a coalition of leaders and activists will join together to discuss what’s next for criminal justice reform.

But the conversation can’t stop there, and neither can the work. We must once again declare that we are a nation of independence, rooted in the spirit of interdependence. What happens to any of us, happens to all of us — and we won’t get where we want to go faster by leaving anyone behind.

I look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with you in this fight to reclaim our criminal justice system in the years to come.

Thank you,

Cory Booker

U.S. Senator

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President Obama’s Top Ten Actions to Accelerate American Entrepreneurship

President Barack Obama hosts White House Demo Day, which celebrates the role entrepreneurship plays in America's economy, in the State Dining Room of the White House, Aug. 4, 2015. The President discusses the Partpic replacement part exhibit with Jewel Burks and Jason Crain from Atlanta, Ga. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama hosts White House Demo Day, which celebrates the role entrepreneurship plays in America’s economy, in the State Dining Room of the White House, Aug. 4, 2015. The President discusses the Partpic replacement part exhibit with Jewel Burks and Jason Crain from Atlanta, Ga. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

America’s entrepreneurial economy is the envy of the world.  Young companies account for almost 30 percent of new jobs, and as we’ve fought back from the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, startups have helped our private sector create 15.5 million jobs since early 2010—the longest streak of private-sector job creation on record.  

Today, in celebration of National Entrepreneurship Month, the Administration is releasing a Top 10 list of President Obama’s most significant specific actions to promote American entrepreneurship, as well as announcing new efforts to build on these successes. 

Over the past eight years, thanks to the grit, determination, and creativity of entrepreneurs all across the country, American startup activity is rebounding and growing more inclusive.

President Obama has taken action to accelerate American Entrepreneurship

Between 2007 and 2016 the number of women-owned firms grew at an estimated 5 times faster than the national average and the number of minority-owned firms more than doubled.

The number of startup accelerator programs increased from fewer than 30 in 2009 to over 170 in 2015, providing mentorship and early funding to thousands of startups across 35 states plus D.C. and 54 metro areas

Here is a short summary of the President’s top 10 actions to accelerate American entrepreneurship; for more details, see here.

  1. Signed permanent tax incentives for startup investment, by making the research and experimentation (R&E) tax credit available to pre-revenue startups and permanently eliminating capital gains tax on certain small business investments.
  2. Accelerated the transition of research discoveries from lab to market, by scaling up the I-Corps entrepreneurship training program for Federally-funded scientists and engineers, opening up data on Federal research facilities and intellectual property, extending and strengthening the $2.5 billion Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, and more.
  3. Cut red tape for entrepreneurs, with over 100 cities and communities taking the Startup in a Day pledge to streamline their business startup processes, allowing entrepreneurs to navigate requirements in as little as 24 hours.
  4. Expanded regional entrepreneurship opportunities, startup accelerator programs investing in regional innovation clusters, and incentivizing regional innovation strategies research commercialization centers and early-stage seed capital funds.  
  5. Directly boosted entrepreneurs’ access to capital, with $8.4 billion in loans and venture investments catalyzed by the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) and new pathways for impact investment funds and early-stage innovation funds through the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program.  
  6. Prioritized inclusive entrepreneurship, with the first-ever White House Demo Day catalyzing major investors, technology companies, and other organizations to committing to new actions to ensure diverse recruitment and hiring, complemented by Federal agency actions to reduce barriers faced by women entrepreneurs, train veteran entrepreneurs for 21st century opportunities, and more.
  7. Created opportunities for promising entrepreneurs and innovators from abroad, allowing international students with qualifying science and engineering degrees from U.S. universities to extend the time they participate in practical training, and unlocking the talents of high-skilled Americans-in-waiting.
  8. Updated securities laws for high-growth companies, with the bipartisan Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act making it easier for smaller firms to responsibly make an initial public offering (IPO), allowing entrepreneurs to raise up to $50 million through regulated “mini public offerings,” and creating a national marketplace for securities-based crowdfunding.
  9. Made the U.S. patent system more efficient and responsive to innovators, by signing the bipartisan America Invents Act to significantly reduce patent application costs and wait times for startups and small businesses, taking steps to increase transparency and level the playing field for innovators, and more.
  10. Unleashed entrepreneurship in the industries of the future, including clean energy, biotechnology, the commercial space industry, nanotechnology, drones, robotics, advanced manufacturing, and more.

To ensure that every American entrepreneur has a straight shot at success, we need all hands on deck.  That’s why, since the launch of the White House Startup America initiative in 2011, the President has issued a consistent public call to action to companies, nonprofits, universities, investors, and others to celebrate and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the country.

Today, even more organizations are responding to that call to action, with engineering deans from more than 200 universities committed to building a more diverse student talent pipeline; 79 companies committed to the Tech Inclusion Pledge, an effort to make the technology workforce at each of their companies representative of the American people as soon as possible; and over 30 angel investor groups with over $800 million under management making a new commitment to promote inclusive entrepreneurship. For more details, click here.

Many of President Obama’s signature achievements have significantly increased opportunities for entrepreneurs to take smart risks and build the next generation of great American companies:  the Affordable Care Act is making it easier for entrepreneurs to buy health insurance, unlocking them from traditional employer-based coverage; the Pay As You Earn program is making it easier for entrepreneurs to pay off student loan debt; the Open Data Initiative has unlocked over 200,000 government datasets as raw material for entrepreneurial innovation; ConnectED and ConnectALL are allowing aspiring entrepreneurs everywhere to access high-speed broadband, while a strong net neutrality policy ensures a free and open internet; and the President signed into law the largest annual increase in research and development funding in America’s history.

These and other efforts to address income inequality, promote competitive markets, reduce unduly restrictive occupational licensing, and scale up rapid training for 21st century technology skills are essential to ensure that America remains the best place on the planet to start and scale the next great company.

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Celebrating the Gift of the Holidays

Volunteers and staff work on holiday decorations in the Lower Cross Hall of the White House, Nov. 28, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Volunteers and staff work on holiday decorations in the Lower Cross Hall of the White House, Nov. 28, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The smell of pine, the taste of gingerbread cookies, the choral sounds of music filling the halls and the sight of thousands of guests coming through the doors — that’s right, it’s time for another magical holiday season at the White House!

In our eighth and final holiday season, we’re celebrating the theme, “The Gift of the Holidays” — the gift of family and friends, reflection and remembrance, and excitement and cheer.

As the White House Social Secretary, it’s my job to lead the transformation of the People’s House during the holiday season and help welcome everyone who comes through the White House doors.

It all begins six months ahead of time with input from Mrs. Obama along with a talented team of designers who come up with amazing and festive concepts and sketches for the entire White House, the private residence, and the West Wing (including the Oval Office).

Then, we have the hard task of sorting through a bulk of eager, everyday citizens who want to volunteer to help us decorate. We read lots of fun and creative letters. The volunteers show up the Friday after Thanksgiving and work tirelessly with the designers, White House Executive Residence team, Social Office and so many others to get it all ready! It’s a team effort to bring it all together. We are so lucky that in addition to the tours and receptions to showcase the work, we are able to also bring the joyous experience of the Holidays to those online. You’ll be able to view all of the amazing décor soon, but here are just a few hints at what you’ll see.

We’ve moved the traditional military tribute to the East Garden Room to allow more space for guests to reflect and send messages to those serving abroad. As always, the Blue Room will hold the majestic, official White House Christmas tree — along with the featuring key excerpts from the Constitution and images that represent the diversity of America. I won’t reveal much more, but be sure to look for your home state in the State Dining Room and get ready to have your wide-angle camera lens ready for the fun, larger than life display of the First Dogs, Bo and Sunny!

It’s been my honor and privilege to work another year as the Social Secretary for President and Mrs. Obama. On behalf of the social office team — Lauren Kelly, Elizabeth Pan, Pantea Faed, Kristina Broadie, Kayla Daniels, and Jonathan Lee — we hope you enjoy the decorations as much as we enjoyed getting them ready for you.

Let the season begin!

Deesha Dyer is the White House Social Secretary

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