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Sunday, February 5, 2023

US labor chief says poor immigration policy is ‘biggest threat’ to economy

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh reacts to the November jobs report and discusses other factors influencing the 2023 economic outlook.

On the heels of the November jobs report, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh warned of the "biggest threat to the U.S. economy." 

"I think the biggest threat to our economy is that we don't have a good, strong immigration policy," he said on "Varney & Co" Friday. "Some people are so focused on the southern border, and that's really not the issue. The issue of immigration is how do we make sure that companies and businesses have the opportunity to employ people."

Employers added 263,000 jobs in November, the Labor Department said in its monthly payroll report released Friday, topping the 200,000 jobs forecast by Refinitiv economists. It marks a slight deceleration from the upwardly revised job gain of 284,000 recorded in October. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, held steady at 3.7%. 

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Secretary Walsh emphasized that businesses and industries would benefit from a strong immigration policy, helping to bring more people into the workforce.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh Economy Jobs

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh reacts to the November jobs report and shares how 2023 economic outlook on “Varney & Co.” (FOX Business / Fox News)

"We've seen a lack of immigration in our country over the last five years, and it's something that has to be addressed. And hopefully, the next Congress will have a good conversation and address that issue," he said. "Every business leader in America I speak to, every single one said this to me. It's really important for us to figure out the immigration issue."

LABOR SECRETARY WALSH WARNS OF ECONOMIC ‘CATASTROPHE’ IF CONGRESS DOESN'T PASS IMMIGRATION REFORM

When host Ashley Webster pointed out that the labor participation rate came in at 62.1% with nearly 6 million Americans unemployed, Walsh stressed that the Labor Department must continue promoting opportunities for Americans. 

"What we have to do is continue to create opportunities for getting people into jobs," he said. "There's different reasons why people aren't participating in the workforce. And what we want to do is make sure as they come back into the workforce… we're doing everything we can to partner businesses up with workers in this country."

The Labor Department report outlined job gains by industry, with leisure and hospitality leading the way in hiring, adding 88,000 new workers. That was followed by health care (45,000), government (42,000) and social assistance (23,000).

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However, some sectors saw payrolls shrink last month. Department stores shed 21,800 workers, and transportation and warehousing cut positions by 15,100.

"We just need to continue to do our job here and continue to set people up with jobs," Walsh said in response to the breakdown.

In the Federal Reserve's highly-anticipated meeting later this month, Chair Jerome Powell is likely to announce more rate hikes despite the jobs report. Fed officials have already approved six straight increases, including four back-to-back 75-basis-point hikes, raising the federal funds rate to a range of 3.75% to 4%. They are widely expected to approve a 50-basis-point rate hike when they next meet on Dec. 13-14, moving interest rates further into restrictive territory.  

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Secretary Walsh affirmed the Biden administration's commitment to allow the Fed to act independently, emphasizing the need for the Biden administration to do what it can to help the overall economy.

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"We have to be very creative here to do our side of the aisle. The Fed does their policy, and we have our actions on our side."

FOX Business' Megan Henney contributed to this report.

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