September 01, 2012

Secretary of Labor on Twitter on Labor Day: An Analysis

Hilda L. Solis, the U.S. Secretary of Labor and a key member of the Obama administration held a public outreach program, and we bring you the top insights from the Labor Day live twitter chat between her and the audience. This was preceded by a webinar for Latino workers the same day and unmistakable public relations messages tacit in the same, was not missed by political observers.

We dig into close to 3,000 tweets exchanged between Secretary of Labor and the public on twitter to get you the top issues in the public mind- Jobs and its varied dimensions. First a snapshot:-

We excluded personal and political questions to understand key labor related issues raised (summarized in box; “Key Issues Raised”). The irony of some of the tweets of helplessness and joblessness on Labor Day did strike a chord, but the questions and responses quickly shifted attention to some public issues.

Background to some key issues

The Companionship Exemption amendment regulation proposed by the Obama administration affects nearly 2.5 million home-care workers (primarily baby-care sitters and elder social companions) who are denied minimum wage due to an exemption in the Labor Act since 1975. The issue depends on who wins the election for the White House and hence has acquired political color and prominence.

Issues of S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education and foreign workers are inter-related and Obama’s long-term revival plan for educational focus on STEM excellence is to prepare youth for new economy jobs. In the absence of quick fixes, there is a dependence on foreign workers. Irony and mismatched skill-job reality is obvious - there are more jobs available for hi-tech and specialist skills but not enough qualified labor to fulfill. Meanwhile, manufacturing skills are surplus but there is not enough demand.  The solution is likely to be long-drawn, and hinges on the “Educate to Innovate” program.

Industries showing faster recovery after the recession have been healthcare, hi-tech, and advanced manufacturing, however this has not uplifted the job market enough since these do not offer huge job opportunity volumes and more importantly, skills required for these have mostly been inadequately available in the U.S. The obvious message is again to upgrade skills to those expected to drive demand in job market

In her repeated televised and other public messages, on job market recovery, the Secretary of Labor has sought to shift focus from the path uncovered still to recovery achieved so far using comparative statistics. Needless to say, depending on which side of political rhetoric one is, the reality bears proof either way. It is a glass half full and there is a long way to go still.