About a month ago, I joined many others in Congress and our nation in celebrating National Small Business Week, where we recognized the over 30 million small businesses across the country. As I reflect on that important week, I can’t help but also reflect on the conditions that make it possible for these businesses to grow and thrive.
It’s no secret our economy has been booming – and beating – the experts' forecasts yet again after two recent positive jobs reports. As I continue to honor the sacrifice, grit and hard work of the small business owners across the country, I am thrilled to see more positive news about the economy that makes their success possible. And I will continue to allow more small businesses to be created, thrive and contribute to what makes America so special.
The past two months' jobs reports gave us an abundance of great news. The GDP rate was 3.2% in the first quarter, the best start to a year since 2015. 224,000 jobs were created in April, followed by 75,000 more jobs added in May. This brings the average monthly job growth so far in 2019 to 155,000 jobs per month. Hiring rates rose across almost all sectors. Average hourly earnings increased by 0.2% in the past month, and year over year they were up 3.1% since last May.
And, perhaps best of all, the unemployment rate fell to an almost 50 year low, where it has been for the past two months, hitting 3.6%. This is the lowest rate since December of 1969!
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We have now had a full year of unemployment at 4% or lower, and the results have been incredible. Smashing many predictions, these jobs reports have been a welcomed indication of just how incredible our country’s economy is doing.
While all of these numbers and reports help to illustrate just how our economy is thriving, the proof is truly evident on the Main Streets and in the households across the country. When the economy thrives, the positive effects can be felt throughout our nation, in every corner of our lives. People can start businesses or experience established businesses grow and thrive. Mothers and fathers can provide for their families and for their futures. Communities come together as they prosper.
These numbers should not just mean something to economists, but to all of us. They are the green light to a better community, country and life for us all.
Looking forward, I am hopeful that this economic prosperity will reach every corner of our country, especially those places that are economically distressed and have often been left behind in other periods of economic boom.
My Opportunity Zones initiative, part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, aims to bring opportunity to exactly those types of communities, not only in South Carolina, but across the nation. I have been touring the nation this past year on an “Opportunity Tour” to view the designated zones across our country that have already started to take advantage of this initiative to make a positive change in their communities. As I continue my tour, I look forward to seeing more zones and meeting more people who are using this program as a way to revitalize and bring opportunity to distressed communities all across America.
I am proud Opportunity Zones have gained recognition as a key part of the next phase of economic expansion, with strong emphasis on expanding the labor force and using the untapped resources already in each these communities.
Every day we are seeing more and more great news about the current economic expansion in America -- a trend that is breaking records and exciting economists and citizens alike. It’s easy to see there are many reasons to be excited about today’s economy, whether it be the positive effects it has had on America’s small businesses or the catalyst it has been and will continue to be for involvement in Opportunity Zones,. There is even more to be excited about come tomorrow.
Republican Tim Scott is a U.S. senator from South Carolina.
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