Janelle Jones announced that she had joined the Joe Biden Administration as the chief economist for the Department of Labor on the day Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were inaugurated — Wednesday, Jan. 20.
“I’m very excited to announce I have joined the Biden Administration as the Chief Economist at DOL,” Jones tweeted from her personal Twitter account. “I am excited to help build back a better economy where workers, especially those usually left behind, are safe, secure, & empowered at the workplace. Let’s get to work!”
So just who is Jones and what is her background? Here are five things to know about the Spelman College alumnus and new chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor.
Before joining the Biden Administration, Jones had extensive experience in economics and research. In her prior role, she was the managing director of policy and research at the Groundwork Collaborative and the Policy & Research Director at The Hub Project. Before The Hub, Jones was an economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute until 2018. She was also a research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) and an economist at the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
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According to EPI, Jones’ focus areas as an economist include: racial inequality, job quality, unemployment and unions.
As an economic expert, Jones’ has written extensively on how race, ethnicity and gender intersects with the economy. Her research has been cited in The New Yorker, The Economist, Harper’s, The Washington Post, The Review of Black Political Economy, and other publications.
Jones embodies civil rights activist Marian Edelman’s popular quote (which is often incorrectly credited to Muhammad Ali): “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
Jones served as an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer in Sacramento, California at a grassroots nonprofit which focused on community health issues. Jones was also a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru, where she worked in a Small Business Development Program.
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Janelle Jones is a proud alumna of all-women HBCU Spelman College, where she majored in mathematics. She is a native of Northeast Ohio.
In an interview with MarketPlace in September 2020, Jones advocated that the best way to improve the economy is to focus on Black women.
“Black Women Best is a framework and ideology that says we should shift the economic worldview to center and elevate Black women in ways that will benefit the rest of us,” Jones said.
For critics who think her motivation is selfish as a Black woman herself, Jones said not so.
“The pushback I often get is, oh, well, you just want Black women to do well, while everyone else lives in poverty. And it’s like, no, that’s, that’s not true at all. The idea of ‘Black Women Best’ is incredibly inclusionary because it means listening to folks who have ideas for solutions, who think about the economy differently, who experience it differently, who also, because of the makeup of our society, are often breadwinners, who often are leading households,” Jones said. “Centering this group of workers is important at any moment, but particularly now as we think about ways to rebuild the economy in a way that is more fair and equitable and inclusive, given our current economic recession.”