Acosta is dean of the Florida International University College of Law in Miami and is Trump's first Hispanic nominee.
"He has had a tremendous career," Trump told reporters assembled in the East Room of the White House. "I think he'll be a tremendous secretary of labor."
Before returning to the private sector, Acosta had a decades-long public service career, serving in three presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed positions.
He was appointed to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) by former Republican President George W. Bush, who also appointed him to be assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.