This Labor Day comes at a difficult time for many who have been hit hard by the recession. But Kansans have reason for optimism: Businesses in the state gained 1,700 jobs over the past year. This is the first year-over-year gain for total nonfarm employment since October 2008.
While this does not represent booming job growth, it does affirm the state's place at the leading edge of our nation's economic recovery. I am pleased to see growth in the Sunflower State, but I realize statistics mean nothing to those who are without jobs. Many state industries have suffered losses, particularly the aviation industry.
The first step in mitigating layoffs is making sure those who lose jobs through no fault of their own receive the benefits they deserve. Kansas took action to provide this crucial support to more workers who are in need of unemployment insurance.
Last summer, the state received nearly $69 million in unemployment modernization incentive funds made available through the federal recovery act. Kansas qualified for these funds by putting into law a longtime practice of allowing those seeking part-time work to qualify for benefits, and providing for up to 26 additional weeks of benefits for participants of approved training programs. These legislative updates are helping Kansans continue to support their families and pay their bills while searching for work.
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Unemployment insurance helps lessen the impact of layoffs, but we know that what Kansans really need are good jobs — the kind offering solid wages and opportunities for advancement. So we are investing funds throughout Kansas in ways that will help clear a path out of poverty for the needy, strengthen urban and rural communities, and rebuild a strong middle class.
The U.S. Labor Department has invested more than $11 million in training and employment programs that will prepare Kansans for careers in green and renewable energy industries. Kansas is home to a skilled and technically adept work force. This includes those formerly employed in aviation as well as many veterans. These workers are poised to upgrade their skills and take jobs that will be created in industries such as renewable energy generation and green manufacturing.
Though such industries show promise, it can be difficult to figure out what jobs one is already qualified for, or what kind of training it takes to successfully transition from one career to the next. Today we are unveiling a new tool to help job seekers do that. The new web portal is called "mySkills myFuture" and can be accessed at the website www.myskillsmyfuture.org. In addition to finding out what skills and training are needed for new jobs, users will be able to view local postings and locate regional training and education providers.
Signs are pointing to continued economic growth for Kansas. As jobs grow in the heartland, so will the economy improve throughout the rest of the nation.
All Americans have a role to play in the recovery of our economy. Together, we can address the immediate needs facing working families and restore America's economy as the strongest history has ever seen. We will rebuild a better-prepared American work force while creating a better future for the nation as a whole.