‘Americans Want To Work’: Biden Says Modest Jobs Report Can’t Be Blamed On Unemployment Benefits

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy in the East Room of the White House on May 10, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden addressed criticism from Republicans after a weaker than ... WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy in the East Room of the White House on May 10, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden addressed criticism from Republicans after a weaker than expected April jobs report. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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May 10, 2021 4:04 p.m.

President Biden on Monday stressed that the slowdown of hiring nationwide last month is not an indicator that his administration’s American Rescue Plan is ineffective, and disputed the notion that unemployment insurance is hurting the job market.

Last week, the Labor Department reported that U.S. employers added a modest 266,000 jobs in April, which falls short of the one million jobs that economists forecasted and the weakest monthly gain since January, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In remarks delivered Monday, the President stated that his administration’s economic plan is working, while emphasizing that “climbing out of the deep hole” the economy found itself in amid the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t a clean-cut process.

“Some months we’ll exceed expectations, others we’ll fall short,” Biden said. “The question is: what is the trend line? Are we headed in the right direction? Are we taking the right steps to keep it going? And the answer clearly is yes.”

Biden said that monthly reports are a “snapshot” of a moment in time, before laying out the circumstances behind the Labor Department’s latest jobs report that failed to meet economists’ expectations.

The President pointed out that the jobs report was taken around the week of April 12, and that COVID-19 cases decreased by more than 40 percent and vaccination rates among working age Americans has roughly doubled since then. Biden added that the survey was taken before every adult in the country met eligibility requirements for vaccinations, with a mere 18 percent of working age adults having been fully vaccinated in time for the report’s snapshot.

“Today, if it were taken, 34 percent are fully vaccinated,” Biden said. “No wonder things in America feel better today than they did back when the survey was taken.”

Later in his remarks, Biden said that his administration will make clear that anyone collecting unemployment benefits who is offered a suitable job will be required to take the job or lose their benefits, barring a few COVID-19-related exceptions.

The President went on to hit back at the idea that the slowdown in hiring, as reflected in the latest jobs report, can be blamed on unemployment benefits.

“I know there’s been a lot of discussion since Friday’s report that people are being paid to stay home rather than go to work — we don’t see much evidence of that,” Biden said. “Look, it’s easy to say the line has been because of the generous unemployment benefits that it is a major factor in labor shortages.”

Biden insisted that “Americans want to work” and reiterated that unemployed people who are offered a job must take it or risk losing their benefits, before taking aim at the Trump administration’s disastrous response to the pandemic that led to millions of Americans losing their jobs.

“They lost their jobs to a virus and to a government that bungled its response to the crisis and failed to protect them,” Biden said. “We still have 8 million fewer jobs than we did when the pandemic started.”

The President said that unemployment benefits are a “lifeline” for Americans struggling in the pandemic, but that his administration’s work search requirements for recipients of unemployment benefits will be reinforced.

Biden’s remarks were issued a day after Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo similarly refuted the notion that unemployment benefits are detrimental to the job market, amid Republican governors beginning to cut jobless benefits in their states, arguing that the move would force more people to return to work.

Like the President, Raimondo told CBS on Sunday that there is no data suggesting that Americans are out of work due to unemployment insurance, but that the fear of COVID-19 or the inability to find childcare are key reasons for why people aren’t able to go back to work.

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