04/05/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Top Priority: Good Jobs

A year ago -- just a month before I was confirmed as Secretary of Labor -- it was reported that 3.8 million jobs had been lost since the start of the recession. This dire situation called for immediate action, and President Obama and Congress responded decisively with the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

Fast forward to present day, and a great deal of work remains to be done in getting our economy to its full strength. But there is no doubt that the Recovery Act is making a positive difference in people's lives.

There are thousands of recovery-funded projects underway across America. Last quarter alone, some 600,000 jobs were created or saved as a result of recovery investments. And, a full range of recovery-bolstered social safety net programs--from unemployment insurance to Trade Adjustment Assistance and COBRA -- are both helping workers access job opportunities in emerging industries and helping families can stay on their feet.

At the Department of Labor, where we are charged with ensuring America's workers are trained to effectively tackle the 21st century workplace, the Recovery Act has also made a tremendous difference. Recovery funding made possible more than half a billion dollars in research and job training grants for green jobs. It has also helped us in our work with states, business and worker organizations as we leverage more than 100,000 training slots. And, in the very near future, it will allow us to invest another $220 million in training workers for jobs in health care and other high-growth industries.

When I testified in front of the House Education and Labor Committee earlier today, I was pleased to provide an update on these efforts. I underscored that job creation remains a top Administration priority as we seek to spur growth in the U.S. economy, and noted that as the recovery takes hold it is essential we promote the creation of "good jobs."

Here's what I mean by that: a good job supports a family by increasing incomes, narrowing the wage gap, and allowing workplace flexibility. It is safe and secure, and gives people a voice in the workplace. A good job is also sustainable and innovative (for example a green job), helps rebuild a strong middle class, and provides access to a secure retirement and adequate and affordable health coverage. If it's not already clear, making good jobs the norm is one of our top goals.

In moving towards that end, we are looking to partner with Congress to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). WIA presents a unique opportunity to promote innovation in the public workforce system, build on its strengths, and address challenges.

We are also making a concerted effort to further our outreach to the full breath of the stakeholder community. For instance, I have met -- and will continue to meet with -- labor and business leaders, community organizations, state and local officials, and many others. And my department is committed to either leading -- or working tirelessly to broaden the impact of -- every initiative that has good jobs as its intended outcome.

As I near my one-year mark as Secretary of Labor, therefore, it is encouraging to know so many of us remain focused on doing everything possible to stem job losses, stimulate the economy and make "good jobs for everyone" a reality. There are clear signs of progress in this effort, but we remain well aware that our nation can't reach its full potential while a single American is unemployed or underemployed. I am confident that we are on the right track, but I am also conscious that we have a long way to go.