Biden and his officials touted the low unemployment number that came out of Friday’s jobs report, which also found that U.S. employers added just 199,000 jobs in December – far below predictions – as the economy struggles with inflation and supply shortages.
And the president responded to Republican criticism that he has done enough to combat record-high levels of inflation, which hit 6.2% in October 2021, or done enough to mitigate the supply chain shortage.
‘Malarkey,’ Biden said in a speech at the White House.
‘They want to talk down the recovery because they voted against the legislation that made it happen,’ he added in reference to his American Rescue Plan, which Congress passed in March without a single Republican vote.
And he pointed out that, despite the warnings about the supply chain crisis around the holidays, the ‘much predicted crisis didn’t occur.’
He also got in a shot at former President Donald Trump and Republicans who have pushed the ‘big lie’ that Trump actually won the election but was the victim of voter fraud.
‘The Grinch did not steal Christmas,’ Biden said, adding: ‘Nor any votes.’
President Joe Biden defended his economic record and took shots at the Republicans as he addressed December’s dismal jobs numbers
Biden defended his work on the supply chain, noting ‘The Grinch did not steal Christmas’
But December’s jobs number was a major miss from the 422,000 that was forecast and was the fewest jobs added in any month of 2021. It comes as businesses are struggling to fill jobs with many Americans remaining reluctant to return to the workforce.
The unemployment rate, however, fell to 3.9% from 4.2% in November, marking a new pandemic-era low.
‘I want to talk about I think it’s historic day for our economic recovery today’s national unemployment rate fell below 4% to 3.9%. The sharpest one year drop in unemployment in United States history,’ Biden said in his remarks.
The below-expectations job gains in December likely reflect labor shortages as well as anomalies with the so-called seasonal adjustment, used by the government to strip out seasonal fluctuations from the data.
In December, the Labor Department report found, 3.1 million persons reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic, which is slightly down from November at 3.6 million.
Among those not in the labor force in December, 1.1 million persons were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic, little changed from November.
Omicron did not likely play a huge role in the low December numbers but its affect will likely be felt in January when job numbers could plummet yet again.
The data released on Friday was collected in mid-December, before the pandemic’s latest wave.
Since then, the Omicron variant has spiked the case rate, keeping people at home.
‘I think Omicron will slow hiring in January,’ Nela Richardson, chief economist at the payroll processing firm ADP, told The New York Times. ‘It might hit in early February as well.’
December’s numbers also come after a record 4.5 million American workers quit their jobs in November.
And the president pushed back against critics who charged people with quitting their jobs to stay at home and collect government handouts.
‘There’s been a lot of press coverage about people quitting their jobs. Today’s report tells you why. Americans are moving up to better jobs with better pay with better benefits. That’s why they’re quitting their jobs. This isn’t about workers walking away and refusing to work. It’s about workers able to take a step up, provide for themselves and their families. This is the kind of recovery I promised,’ he said.
His defense of his economic record comes as his approval numbers have fallen with much of that coming from voters’ disapproval of the president’s handling of the economy. In a November Washington Post-ABC News poll, 70% of voters rated the economy negatively and about half of voters blamed Biden for inflation.
His chief of staff Ron Klain, however, touted the low employment number.
‘BOOM: 3.9% in Dec 2021!,’ he wrote on Twitter. ‘The unemployment rate has fallen more this year than any year on record.’
The White House echoed that sentiment, tweeting: ‘Economic Update: -Unemployment rate fell to 3.9%, a rate we weren’t projected to hit until 2026 before passing the American Rescue Plan -6.4 million jobs created, the most in any year since 1939 -The economy has regained 84% of jobs lost in the pandemic.’
Republicans were quick to pounce on the disappointing numbers.
‘The December jobs report is the WORST of Joe Biden’s presidency and just the latest sign that his economic crisis continues,’ the House GOP Caucus said.
It is the second month in a row that job numbers fell short.
U.S. employers added just 210,000 jobs in November, well below the estimated half a million that economists had predicted.
The labor market continues to heal from the earliest days of the pandemic, but it has still not regained all of the lost jobs from March and April 2020.
Now Omicron has sickened millions of Americans, forced airlines to cancel thousands of flights, reduced traffic and restaurants and bars and caused some major school systems to close, potentially keeping some parents at home with children and unable to work.
Still, the job market may be healthier than the modest hiring gain the government reported Friday. The aftermath of the pandemic has made the government´s employment figures more volatile, with one month´s data often followed by a sharply different trend a month or two later.
The economy has also shown resilience in the face of surging inflation, the prospect of higher loan rates and the spread of the omicron variant. Most businesses report steady demand from their customers despite chronic supply shortages.
Consumer spending and business purchases of machinery and equipment likely propelled the economy to a robust annual growth rate of roughly 7% in the final three months of 2021. Americans´ confidence in the economy rose slightly in December, according to the Conference Board, suggesting that spending probably remained healthy through year´s end.
Even with December´s modest gain, 2021 was one of the best years for American workers in decades, though one that followed 2020, the job market´s worst year since records began in 1939, a consequence of the pandemic recession. Companies posted a record number of open jobs last year and offered sharply higher pay to try to find and keep workers. Americans responded by quitting jobs in droves, mainly for better pay at other employers.