- - Thursday, May 30, 2019

Ben will start working at Northwestern Mutual this Monday. I met him this past Tuesday along with other graduates of and students at devCodeCamp. The program is a 12-week boot camp to learn the nuts and bolts of software engineering.

Prior to enrolling in the program, Ben was selling smartphones and equipment. He wanted to expand his opportunities for an exciting new career.

Ben’s story is consistent as more than 90 percent of the students in his program will successfully find employment after graduation. Without a doubt, that is a tribute to the people involved with devCodeCamp. But the larger story is the growing economy and its impact on the labor market.

During the past year, more people were employed in Wisconsin than ever before in the history of the state. Throughout the same time period, the unemployment rate was at or below the previous record low of 3 percent for 12 months in a row.

In contrast, the unemployment rate in Wisconsin peaked at 9.3 percent in 2010. During the four years before I took office as governor, more than 133,000 jobs were lost in my state — many in manufacturing. Now, the economy is on fire and labor needs continue to grow.

We hear similar stories across America. The May 3 Labor Department report showed that unemployment had fallen to the lowest level since December 1969 at 3.6 percent. The unemployment rate for African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans was the lowest ever recorded in American history. The same is true for people with a disability and for veterans. April also marks the 14th month of the unemployment rate being at or below 4 percent. The American Dream is alive and well.

Vice President Mike Pence proudly proclaimed in Wisconsin recently that employers across the country have created 5.8 million new jobs since Election Day 2016. Wages are up — rising at the fastest pace in nearly a decade. And there are more job openings in America than there are people looking for a job — for the 13th month in a row.

In contrast, some 200,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in America during the Obama-Biden administration. Thankfully, since Election Day, nearly 500,000 manufacturing jobs have been added. And President Donald Trump didn’t need a “magic wand” to do that or to see 4 percent growth in the economy during his term in office.

Instead, the current president and his team lowered the tax burden for 80 percent of the hard-working people in America and eased the tax burden on small businesses and other employers. They eliminated needless federal regulation to help job creators cut through the red tape.

Numerous signs suggest that the economy will continue to grow. This past Tuesday, the Conference Board reported its index of U.S. consumer confidence rose to 134.1 in May. That is now close to the 18-year high it recorded last fall. Concerns over the ongoing trade dispute with China are not hurting consumer confidence according to the report.

Similarly, Gallup shows that the confidence in the American job market is the highest it has been since their trend started in 2001. More than 70 percent say that now is a good time to find a quality job.

On top of the good news about job growth, the May jobs report indicates that wages are rising, too. The Council of Economic Advisors states, “Nominal average hourly earnings in April rose by 3.2 percent over the past 12 months, marking the 9th straight month that year-over-year wage gains were at or above 3 percent. Prior to 2018, nominal average hourly wage gains had not reached 3 percent since April 2009. Taking inflation into account, there is more evidence that real wages are also growing.

“Based on the most recent Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index data from March, inflation in the past year was 1.5 percent, and, based on the most recent Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) price data from March, inflation in the past year was 1.9 percent. This offers evidence that real wages are rising, and people are able to purchase more goods and services with their larger paychecks.”

More jobs. Increasing take-home pay. Growing confidence in the economy and in our labor market. These are all good signs for the future.

But we cannot take a strong economy for granted.

Many of the Democrats running for president embrace socialist policies that will hurt American workers. Venezuela offers a real-time case study of the negative impact of socialism. We don’t want to go down that treacherous path.

We must tell our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers about this strong economy. We must remind them that this did not happen by accident. And we must warn them that it could slip away — if we are not vigilant.

• Scott Walker was the 45th governor of Wisconsin. You can contact him at swalker@washingtontimes.com or follow him @ScottWalker.

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