03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

There Are Fits and Starts on the Road to Recovery, but We Have to Keep Driving

This past December, the economy lost 85,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 10.0 percent.

Today's numbers underscore that we still have work to do before we can be sure that all Americans have access to good jobs. We are working aggressively to reverse these conditions for American workers and their families.

Despite the bumpy road to recovery, we have made progress. We must keep in mind that average monthly job loss was 691,000 in the first quarter of 2009, 428,000 in the second quarter, 199,000 in the third quarter, and 69,000 in the fourth quarter.

We met the challenges of this recession head on through the Recovery Act -- putting a plan in place designed to create jobs and drive economic growth through a combination of tax relief for individuals and businesses, aid to hard-hit families and state and local governments, and funding for science, technology and infrastructure projects across the country. Thanks to this program, we have saved or created more than 1 million jobs.

We are also continuing to see signs of labor market healing. Temporary help services, a sector which is often a leading indicator of labor demand, added 46,500 jobs in December. In addition, professional and technical service industries added 9,000 jobs in December, following a similar November gain, as employment is beginning to turn around in management consulting, computer systems design, and architectural and engineering services.

We should remember, also, that there have been some areas of consistent job growth despite the recession. Most notably, health care added 22,000 jobs in December, and has added 631,000 jobs since the recession began.

Over the past year, the Obama Administration has continued to take bold steps to attack this recession, and the Department of Labor has undertaken measures to ensure that we fulfill our responsibility to provide workers with the assistance they need today and invest in their future.

Earlier this week, as I wrote on this blog, I awarded nearly $100 million in Energy Training Partnership grants that will provide training for workers and prepare them to enter the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries, as well as green occupations within other industries. And over the next month, we will release an additional $560 million in grants for career training in clean and renewable energy, health care and other high growth sectors.

As we invest in workers, we are also providing them the assistance they need. The Recovery Act provided additional weeks of unemployment insurance for all workers and is subsidizing COBRA health insurance premiums for many unemployed. We have distributed $2.8 billion worth of incentive payments to 32 states to modernize their unemployment insurance programs so that more workers, including recent entrants to the labor force, part-timers, and people in training programs, are now eligible for benefits for the very first time. We also have awarded more than $101 million in National Emergency Grants, with nearly $59 million released in 2009, providing services to an estimated 28,000 dislocated workers.

We will continue to work aggressively to ensure that we provide workers with the assistance they need to help them find good jobs, and I am confident that our initiatives will help turn our economy around, creating pathways to success for all of Americans.