The 94 consecutive months of job growth begun during the Obama Administration is pulling those hardest hit by the Great Recession back into the job market, according to reports this past weekend. The unemployment rate for less educated workers, the 7.2% of Americans in the labor force without high school diplomas, fell to 5.1%, the lowest in decades. In conjunction with the success of our No Kid Hungry strategies, this should mean less childhood hunger in the months ahead.
More Americans working means more Americans better able to support themselves – and more fulfilled by the confidence, self-respect and dignity that comes with work. But that won’t be the case for everyone – not all jobs provide that or the living wage necessary, and not all workers are able to stay in the jobs they do find. Many families will continue to need the kind of assistance that school meals and SNAP provide. (Jason Furman, was chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and is a new friend whose wisdom I value. Last week he wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal on why work requirements for SNAP and Medicaid hurt poor families and won’t work.)
In recent months we’ve seen reduced growth in nutrition assistance program participation. We can expect that to continue. If the result of economic growth, that’s a good thing. It suggests anti-hunger organizations may need to rethink and recalibrate strategy. A nation with 3.9% unemployment is a very different nation than one with 10% (as in 2010), and one with very different needs. We can’t stop until all children have the healthy food they deserve. However, we want to make sure that every dollar we work so hard to generate is deployed to help children and families where they need help the most.