President Joe Biden is defending a disappointing August jobs report, arguing that the economy badly needs Congress to pass his legislative agenda and pointing out that jobs have been created every month of his administration.
“I know some wanted to see a larger number today, and so did I,” Biden told reporters at the White House Friday. “But what we’ve seen this year is continued growth, month after month, in job creation.”
Biden was referring to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ August report, which showed that only 235,000 jobs were added last month, far fewer than the 728,000 that economists had predicted. It’s the lowest monthly growth in jobs since Biden took office in January.
The president argued that the slowed growth is partly due to the coronavirus surges brought on by the highly contagious Delta variant and noted that unemployment still declined. The jobless figure fell to 5.2 percent from July’s 5.4 percent.
“Today’s report shows that the steps we’ve taken—passing the rescue plan and vaccinating 175 million people—made our economy capable of growing and adding jobs, even in the face of this continuing Delta surge,” he said.
Biden also took a jab at former President Donald Trump, who often used the stock market as a predictor of the nation’s economic health and frequently tweeted about new records.
“Imagine if the guy was here: ‘We’re doing great. It’s wonderful. The stock market is surging. It’s gone up higher under me than anybody,'” Biden said, mocking Trump. “That doesn’t mean it’s the best for the economy.”
Biden is urging Congress, which has razor-thin Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, to pass a $3.5 trillion spending plan that prioritizes new social programs, as well as a separate trillion-dollar infrastructure bill. Both remain in negotiations.
“It’s about investing in America’s future, not about short-term stimulus,” Biden said. “It’s about long-term prosperity.”
Biden noted the pushback from some corporations and the wealthy, who may face higher taxes to pay for the massive spending plans.
“Let me be perfectly clear: We’re going to take them on. We’re going to pass these measures. We’re going to build an economy from the bottom up and middle out—not from the top down. The corporations and the wealthy are going to start to pay their fair share,” he said. “Everyone will be better, including the middle class.”
The disappointing jobs news comes as Biden has faced a series of crises in recent weeks and seen his approval ratings dip.
He’s seen a backlash over the chaotic evacuation of troops from Afghanistan, ending the nation’s longest war after 20 years. At least 100 Americans who wanted to come back to the U.S. were not able to get out of Afghanistan before the last military evacuation plane departed Monday.
Last week, 13 military servicemen were killed when ISIS-K, an offshoot of the Islamic State militant group that operates out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, attacked the airport in Kabul amid the rush to evacuate.
This week, Hurricane Ida struck Louisiana as a massive Category 4 storm. Its remnants then battered the East Coast, causing torrential flooding in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Meanwhile, wildfires are raging across California.
On Capitol Hill, Biden’s proposed economic and infrastructure plans have hit a rocky road as Democratic members of Congress, who have been on recess, battle publicly over priorities.
In a 5-4 vote this week, the Supreme Court allowed a new Texas law to take effect that significantly restricts access to abortion. Biden, who supports abortion rights, has vowed to do everything he can to counteract that decision, but he has few options.
And the coronavirus pandemic rages on, with the seven-day average death toll recently hitting its highest level—1,500—since March.
Republicans quickly blasted the jobs news, with Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel calling the report “a huge miss.”
“Because of Biden’s failed policies and reckless spending, there are fewer jobs and rising prices for everything from gas to groceries,” she said in a statement. “Americans are being left behind.”