The data, showing 266,000 new positions were added in April, a quarter of the number analysts had expected, had the effect of convincing both Republican and Democratic lawmakers — who return to Washington this week — that their dueling economic and political positions are justified.
The report will further juice an already tense atmosphere in Washington as divisions are hardening after Biden’s first 100 days in office. The President will deliver remarks on the economy Monday, then host the four top leaders of the House and Senate for talks for the first time on Wednesday. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will attend the meeting just days after saying 100% of his focus is on obstructing the new presidency. The White House is, meanwhile, readying a strong push for Biden’s infrastructure package. The plan’s billing as a massive jobs package will take on even more resonance given the invigorated debate about unemployment.
It’s always unwise to draw sweeping conclusions about any single employment report — especially as there are other statistical and anecdotal signs that the economy may be poised for a post-pandemic boom. But try telling that to Washington politicians who are on hair trigger alert for any development that might define the early months of a new administration.
The GOP pounced, as it seeks to build public mistrust of Biden’s economic policies, arguing that his strategy of spending trillions of dollars in big federal programs is already proving to be counterproductive.
The below-expectations report also offered the party an issue to unite around that did not involve the internal recriminations over an attempt by House Republicans to oust Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership position over her refusal to buy ex-President Donald Trump’s lies about election fraud, which will take center stage with a conference vote likely this week.
Democrats seized on the same evidence that Republicans claim show Biden is damaging the economy to argue that the government must double down on efforts to help less well-off Americans still mired in the pandemic’s economic dislocation. That group has historically benefited less from previous recoveries than wealthier Americans and is the key constituency that the President is targeting in the broadest attempt to remake the economy in decades.
‘Headed in the right direction’
White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients styled the report as a blip in a generally positive trend, following a bumper report in March that blew past expectations and showed that 916,000 jobs were created, although that has since been revised downward to 770,000.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” Zients told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat, hit back at claims by Republicans that unemployment benefits provided under Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief plan were convincing many Americans not to go back to work — after a group of GOP governors announced they would block the extended federal help.
“I will tell you we may be talking about the big lie as it relates to the election, but very close to that is this notion that people don’t want to work. I have not met any of those people who don’t want to work,” Clyburn said on “State of the Union.”
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that it was appropriate for governors in some regions to respond to their local jobs market. But she also criticized the rationale of the Republican argument that unemployment benefits were stopping people from going back to work.
“There’s nothing in the data which would suggest that that’s the reason people are out of work,” Raimondo said.
“We have to remember that, when the President moved to make this happen, this unemployment insurance has been a lifeline, a survival lifeline for so many Americans,” she added.
GOP governor says cutting unemployment benefits is ‘a good idea’
With Biden gearing up for a bipartisan push on the next phase of his economic agenda, Republicans seized on the disappointing numbers released Friday to claim that Biden’s big spending ways are already damaging the economy and that his plans to raise corporate taxes to pay for a broad infrastructure overhaul would crimp growth. They are also demanding the end of all social distancing measures even in areas where the pandemic is still raging.
“If Joe Biden had done nothing, the jobs report would be greater and more people would be in work today,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said on “Sunday Morning Futures” on Fox News.
Republicans, enjoying the luxury of being in the opposition, are making politically expedient arguments that fit their ideology.
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