White House frees up job training funds

Labor Department offers $150M

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U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez announced Monday that his department has just made $150 million available for job training that he repeatedly said will help workers “punch their ticket to the middle class.”

The announcement came the same day that the New York-based nonprofit National Employment Law Project released a report stating the industries that have recovered all the jobs they lost in the Great Recession and even added more were those that paid the lowest wages.

The national unemployment rate for March was 6.7 percent.

The money that Mr. Perez announced is becoming available — part of a total of $1 billion available overall in job training money — will partially pay workers’ salaries if employers will hire and train them to do the work.

States will have until May 28 to apply for the money, and will be able to receive grants ranging from $500,000 to $6 million from the Job-Driven National Emergency Grant program.

Mr. Perez noted the intractable problem that has been left over from the recent recession is that of high levels of long-term unemployment. The long-term unemployed — those who have been out of work for more than six months — make up 2.5 percent of the labor force, higher than it has been after any other recession the country has endured. Currently 3.7 million people are classified as part of the long-term unemployed.

Stefani Pashman, the executive director of the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board in Pittsburgh, agreed that job training helps unemployed workers find jobs.

“We have found that individuals served through CareerLink who receive training are 2.5 times more likely to find a job than those who don’t, and they find jobs at higher wages,” she said. CareerLink is a state program for job seekers.

Ms. Pashman said people who went through training earned an average wage of $15.33 an hour, while the newly employed workers who did not receive training earned $14.52 an hour.

The job training that works best, both Mr. Perez and Ms. Pashman said, is that provided because employers are asking for workers. “I like to think of the Department of Labor playing a Match.com kind of role between employers and job seekers,” Mr. Perez said.

The National Employment Law Project study showed that industries that paid less than $13.33 an hour have added 1.85 million more workers than they had at the start of the recession. Industries that paid middle-wage rates — from $13.73 to $20 an hour — are still short 958,000 workers compared to employment levels at the start of the recession.

Higher-wage industries — those that pay between $20.03 and $32.62 per hour — have 976,000 fewer employees than before the recession.


Ann Belser: abelser@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699.

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