Friday, we learned that the economy added 117,000 jobs in July. Better than many forecasters predicted, but not enough to bring down the national unemployment rate below 9 percent. Unfortunately, the modest job growth is consistent with the GDP data released at the end of July, which showed the economy grew at an annual rate of less than one percent during the first half of 2011.
The recovery has slowed and we need to ensure it regains momentum. It's critical that we focus on jump-starting job creation and reducing the unemployment rate. Nearly 14 million Americans, including 479,000 in Pennsylvania, remain out of work and more than six million of these workers have been jobless for six months or more.
As Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, I held a hearing on Friday to better understand our country's employment challenges. We heard from Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Keith Hall, who oversees the federal government's jobs data.
Although Congress is not in session, I thought it was important to go ahead with this hearing because job creation is such a critical issue for Pennsylvanians. I'm optimistic that Friday's hearing helped shine a spotlight on the need for additional action to bolster our economy.
It's imperative that we move quickly to enact common-sense measures to create jobs. I have four proposals that can help move us forward. While none of them is a panacea, each of them would strengthen our economy and boost job creation.
1) Provide new incentives for small firms to hire. My Small Business Job Creation Tax Credit Act creates a one-year quarterly tax credit equal to 20 percent of the total increase in employee wages. Firms can benefit from the credit by increasing their hiring, increasing the hours of employees, or increasing employee wages.
2) Encourage small and medium-sized businesses to invest in life sciences R&D through the bipartisan Life Sciences Jobs and Investment Act -- which I introduced last month -- that doubles the R&D tax credit on the first $150 million of R&D in life sciences.
3) Make the R&D Tax Credit permanent to give companies the certainty they need to make long-term research investments in the United States.
4) Strengthen U.S. manufacturing by creating a national manufacturing strategy that supports manufacturing companies and workers in our country and cracks down on China's currency manipulation and other unfair trade practices.
The labor market is recovering. After all, we've recorded 17 consecutive months of private-sector job gains. But, the recovery isn't happening as fast as we would like and it has yet to touch millions of Americans.
People in our state and across the country are hurting -- struggling to get back to work, put food on the table, pay the mortgage or just make ends meet. I hear the stress in the voices of people I talk with and see it in the letters I receive from folks across the Commonwealth. We need to help people get back on their feet. And to do that, we need to get back to work on creating private sector jobs and strengthening the economy.