Commerce Secretary Refutes Notion That Unemployment Relief Impedes Job Growth

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 20: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee during a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on April 20, 2021 in Washington,... WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 20: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee during a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on April 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden cabinet members, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, testified about the American Jobs Plan, the administration's $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan that has yet to win over a single Republican in Congress. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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May 9, 2021 2:05 p.m.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Sunday pushed back on the idea that unemployment relief is hurting the job market as Republican governors begin slashing jobless benefits in their states, arguing that the move would force more people to return to work.

During an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Raimondo was asked to weigh in on the notion that there is a correlation between unemployment benefits and the unexpected slowdown of hiring nationwide. On Friday, the Labor Department reported that U.S. employers added a modest 266,000 jobs last month, which falls short of the one million that economists had forecast and the weakest monthly gain since January, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Asked about the Biden administration’s take on the slowdown in hiring, Raimondo said that there is no data suggesting that Americans are out of work due to unemployment insurance.

Instead, Raimondo pointed to the fear of COVID-19 or the inability to find childcare as key reasons for why people aren’t able to go back to work.

Raimondo was then specifically asked about governors of states such as South Carolina and Montana that are rolling back unemployment benefits due to their belief that it has a negative impact on the job market. Republican lawmakers have expressed their opposition to enhanced unemployment payments and unanimously voted against extending them earlier this year.

After saying that it’s appropriate for governors in different regions to tailor their response to unemployment benefits depending on the circumstances within their regional labor market, the commerce secretary doubled down on denying that unemployment insurance is to blame for a job market that falls short of economists’ expectations.

“But if you look nationally, wages aren’t going up. People are still telling us the number one reason they’re not going back to work is fear due to the virus. And more people were looking for work last month than the month before,” Raimondo said. “So we are — I am engaged with businesses constantly listening, monitoring. But at the moment, it doesn’t seem to be that that’s the major impediment.”

Watch Raimondo’s remarks below:

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