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Biden argues that economy is improving despite lackluster April unemployment numbers

Jobs report sparks fear of slowing recovery
Jobs report sparks fear of slowing recovery 03:50

President Biden argued that the lower-than-expected April unemployment numbers unveiled on Friday morning still showed that the economy was improving, although he acknowledged that fully economic recovery would be a "marathon." He took the opportunity to discuss his administration's efforts on the country's economic recovery and promote his ambitious multi-trillion dollar infrastructure and health care agenda.

He and members of his administration took Friday's report as an opportunity to tout their economic recovery efforts so far and promote an ambitious proposal for $4 trillion in new spending on infrastructure, families, and health care, arguing it would be necessary to create more jobs and provide economic security moving forward. 

The U.S. gained 266,000 new jobs in April, falling far short of the 1 million economists expected. The unemployment rate rose slightly from 6% to 6.1%. Gains in leisure and hospitality services were offset by declines in temporary help services and in couriers and messengers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Quite frankly, we're moving more rapidly than I thought we would," Mr. Biden said in remarks on Friday. He defended the American Rescue Plan, his $1.9 trillion coronavirus response bill, which he signed in March. Mr. Biden noted that "it was designed to help us over the course of a year," and said that funding allocated from the American Rescue Plan will be delivered to state and local governments this month.

"Help is here, and more help is on the way, and more help is needed," Mr. Biden said.

Biden argues U.S. economy is improving 12:28

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen struck a similar tone when she joined a White House press briefing to discuss the latest unemployment numbers. She said the pandemic recovery remains on track but the latest numbers underscore the "long haul climb back" and more work remains to be done.

"With today's job numbers, I'm confident we will have a strong and prosperous economy this year and in 2022, but what about the rest of the decade and the years beyond? Our country's long term economic health depends on whether we invest in American families and workers," Yellen said.

A White House official told CBS News the administration views the April unemployment numbers as an opportunity to promote Mr. Biden's agenda, arguing that the labor market needs a boost now more than ever. 

While one economist called the report one of the "most disappointing" of all time, administration officials also downplayed the discrepancy between the projection and the actual number, saying that 266,000 jobs added would have been a solid month were it not for such high expectations.

At the same time, administration officials pushed back Friday against Republican criticism that federal increased supplemental unemployment assistance was serving as a disincentive for unemployed people to return to work. The labor market remains down 8.2 million jobs from before the pandemic. 

"There are millions, millions of Americans out there who have, through no fault of their own, been knocked flat on their back this year," Mr. Biden said. "We can't let up. This jobs report makes that clear."

Yellen also countered that the data does not support the argument. She said when they looked at states and sectors where supplemental benefits were high, there weren't lower job finding rates as the argument would suggest, and in fact it was the "exact opposite."

Administration officials noted continued challenges keeping workers home including child care. While the industry gained jobs last month, the U.S. is still down roughly one in seven child care jobs since before the pandemic. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh argued Friday there have been efforts made to address education and child care but more needs to be done. 

The April jobs report came after Mr. Biden visited Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Thursday as part of his nationwide tour to promote the American Jobs Plan. Mr. Biden also spent time pitching the benefits of his American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion proposal that would prove affordable child care to working families, free preschool for all 3- and-4-year-olds and two years of free community college, among other things. 

The president plans to pay for his infrastructure plan in part by raising the corporate tax rate to 28% and increasing the global minimum tax on U.S. multinational corporations. But Republicans have balked at the cost of Mr. Biden's plan and his proposed method of paying for it, as well as some components that GOP lawmakers say stretches the definition of "infrastructure." The president also wants to pay for the American Families Plan in part by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, though some experts question whether the proposal will cover that plan's total costs. 

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