Biden calls for paid leave, minimum wage hike in State of the Union

President Joe Biden hit familiar talking points in his third State of the Union address Thursday, calling for paid leave, an increase to the federal minimum wage and lower barriers to labor organization.

The president referenced those initiatives in a broader discussion centered on difficulties workers face; he similarly voiced support for affordable child care and elder care.

Still, Biden noted that wages are on the rise, and he pointed to the creation of about 15 million new jobs in the past three years. Many of those gains were part of the recovery from jobs lost in the early months of the pandemic, but Biden noted historic job growth in particular for Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans. And unemployment — the number of those out of work and job hunting — sits at a 50-year low.

Biden also touted job creation in clean energy, infrastructure and manufacturing, specifically pointing to the country’s recent focus on semiconductor manufacturing. Semiconductors, a crucial component for cell phones and automobiles, have been in short supply in recent years. Biden said the industry features jobs that pay well and do not require a college degree. His administration in December proposed funding that would promote apprenticeships in the field.

Despite Biden’s potential nod to the skills-based hiring trend and alternative learning avenues, he also voiced support for steps to make higher education more affordable.