Thomas Perez

'We Want to Learn from Germany'

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. David Banks, Bloomberg via Getty Images
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Unemployment in America is low, but real wage growth has remained stagnant since the 1980s. This year, the Obama administration will focus on raising minimum wage on a federal level.

  • Facts


    • In the United States, 14.1 million jobs have been created since President Barack Obama took office.
    • The U.S. labor department expects real wages to increase by 3 percent this year.
    • Apprenticeship used to be respected work training in the United States, but its reputation declined, leaving a gap in the labor market.
  • Audio


  • Pdf

With strong employment figures for the United States showing the country is putting the recession into the past, Thomas Perez is looking ahead at labor models for modern business.

Thomas Perez, a lawyer, used to head the Department of Justice’s civil rights division before becoming Labor Secretary in 2013.

In his current post, Mr. Perez seeks to balance innovative new working models with social security. He talked with German business weekly magazine WirtschaftsWoche about the low oil price, real wage stagnation and said Germany’s positive experiences with the minimum wage gives hope that an increase could be possible in the United States.


WirtschaftsWoche: With unemployment at 5 percent, your country is moving towards full employment. But many Americans rely on two or three badly paid jobs to feed their families. What’s going wrong?

Thomas Perez: We have some unfinished business, certainly. But why don’t you look at how far we’ve come, first: In the three months before President Barack Obama took office, two million jobs had been lost, the U.S. labor market was literally bleeding to death. Since then, 14.1 million jobs have been created, primarily due to our stimulus program for the economy in 2009. These stimuli are beginning to take effect now: 2015 was the strongest year ever for the automobile industry.

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