If Thomas Perez is confirmed as Labor secretary, he’ll bring to two the number of people of color in President Obama’s Cabinet (with three more slots pending).
But the real number that matters to him, once he settles into his new desk, would be 40.2 — that’s the percentage of unemployed Americans who still have no job after 27 weeks.
To most people, 27 weeks without a paycheck is almost seven months. That’s maybe seven missed mortgage payments.
The job crisis is inexorably interwoven with the housing crisis and the record number of people receiving food stamps; As of March 8, the climb continues, with almost 47.8 million people supported by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP. That represents a year-over-year hike of 2.25 percent and makes news of an improving job market hard to see for some.
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Other issues Perez will need to be concerned with are immigration and a possible jump in the federal minimum wage, currently at $7.25. (On Friday, the House rejected a proposed hike to $10.10. Obama seeks $9, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., last week suggested $22.
Should Perez be confirmed, expect him to become familiar with the journey to the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Homeland Security (plus maybe occasional trips to see his former colleagues at Justice, where he has served as chief of the Civil Rights Division).
If he gets the job, Perez, son of Dominican immigrants, would be the sole Latino in Obama’s Cabinet, with three more vacancies to be filled.
The White House website lists 15 Cabinet members (plus Vice President Biden); seven other posts have Cabinet rank (White House chief of staff; Environmental Protection Agency; Office of Management and Budget; U.S. trade representative; U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; chair of the Council of Economic Advisers; chief of the Small Business Administration).
Two others are in the nomination process for Cabinet positions besides Perez, and the Transportation position is considered a vacancy since Ray Lahood has announced he intends to step down. They are Sally Jewell for Interior and Ernest Moniz for Energy. She is white and he is of Portugese heritage.
Yellow denotes new to Obama's Cabinet for his second administration.