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August 7, 1998: A Strong Economy As the 21st Century Approaches

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Today, we will put in place the crowning jewel of our Lifetime Learning agenda -- the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 -- to give all our workers the opportunities for growth and advancement. Like many of you, I have worked toward this day through many long nights. And I am very proud of the result. This bill will help millions of our workers and enhance our nation's competitive edge.

President Bill Clinton
August 7, 1998

Today, President Clinton announces that the unemployment rate remained at 4.5% during July, while the economy created 66,000 new jobs, despite a now-resolved strike by workers at General Motors. The President also signs an important piece of legislation to help working Americans: The Workforce Investment Act, to modernize America's job training system.

More Evidence that Our Economy Remains Strong. Today, figures were released showing that the unemployment rate remained at 4.5% for July. Under President Clinton:

  • 16.3 Million New Jobs Have Been Created, Including 66,000 in July Alone;
  • The Unemployment Rate Remained At 4.5% In July, marking 13 months in a row that the unemployment rate has held below 5 percent;
  • The Fastest Real Wage Growth in More Than Two Decades. Last month, average hourly earnings increased 0.2 percent. Over the past year, average hourly earnings have risen 4.2 percent. After adjusting for inflation, wages have increased 2.7 percent in the past 12 months --that's the fastest real wage growth in more than two decades.

The Workforce Investment Act. In 1995, the President proposed a G.I. Bill for America's Workers to reform our employment and training system by empowering individuals, streamlining services, enhancing accountability, and increasing flexibility. After three years, Congress passed -- with overwhelming bipartisan support -- legislation that incorporates those principles of the President's original job training reform proposal. This legislation changes the job training system by:

  • Empowering Individuals through:
    • Individual Training Accounts that will allow adults to have more control and choice over their training or retraining;
    • Performance Reports To Inform Consumers' Choices that ensure that training centers report on the performance of their graduates in terms of job placement, earnings, and job retention;
    • Universal Access To Core Services including job search and placement assistance, career counseling, labor market information identifying job vacancies, initial assessments of skills and needs, and follow-up services to assist in job retention. This service will be available to everyone;
  • Streamlining Services:
    • Consolidates dozens of individual training programs into three separate grants;
    • Ensures that localities set up "One-Stop Career" Centers to consolidate the tangle of training and employment programs. These centers add to the over 800 One-Stop Career centers already in existence;
  • Enhancing Accountability through:
    • Performance Measures, including job placement rates, earnings, and retention in employment;
    • Ensures Quality Job Training Providers by requiring training providers to be certified under the Higher Education Act, the National Apprenticeship Act, or under state procedure used by the local Workforce Investment boards;
  • Increasing Flexibility:
    • Simplified System For Waivers by providing the Secretary of Labor permanent authority to waive rules in exchange for performance improvements, encouraging states and localities to implement innovative new job training programs;
  • Authorizing $1.25 billion over five years in Youth Opportunity Grants to direct resources to high-poverty areas, including Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities.

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