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Biden touts low unemployment rate after US adds fewer jobs in December than expected

By Kate Sullivan, CNN

President Joe Biden on Friday touted the unemployment rate dropping to a new pandemic low in December and credited his economic agenda with getting America “back on its feet,” even as Friday’s job report showed the US economy added fewer jobs than expected last month.

The US economy added 199,000 jobs in December, the Labor Department said Friday, which was the fewest jobs added in any month of 2021. But the unemployment rate, which is calculated from a different survey, fell to a new pandemic-era low of 3.9%.

“I think it’s a historic day for our economic recovery,” Biden said at the White House.

The President argued Friday’s job report showed Americans are quitting their jobs because they are “moving up to better jobs with better pay, with better benefits.”

“This isn’t about workers walking away and refusing to work. It’s about workers able to take a step up to provide for themselves and their families,” the President said.

Biden continued: “This is the kind of recovery I promised and hoped for, for the American people, where the biggest benefits go to the people who work the hardest and are more often left behind. The people who have been ignored before, the people who just want a decent chance to build a decent life for their family, just given a clear shot.”

“For them, wages are up,” Biden said. “Job opportunities are up. Layoffs are down to the lowest levels in decades, and there are more chances than ever to get ahead.”

The December report likely did not capture the effect of the Omicron surge, which is weighing on workers and businesses, because the surveys that the jobs reports are based on are conducted around the middle of the month. Omicron could mean the start of 2022 is rocky for the labor market, which would be reflected in the January jobs report that posts next month.

The President touted last year’s groundbreaking job gains — America added 6.4 million jobs last year, the most since records started in 1939. But the US was still down 3.6 million jobs compared to before the pandemic, in February 2020.

The President pointed to his administration’s ongoing work in addressing inflation, supply chain issues and high consumer prices, which have caused Biden’s poll numbers to slip and have been among the top concerns of Democrats and the White House.

He argued his Build Back Better bill — a massive economic and climate spending package that so far does not have the votes to pass in Congress — would lower prices for American families and increase access to health care and child care. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he opposes the plan, and Biden needs him on board to get the legislation through the Senate.

The President also blasted Republicans in Congress who voted against the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 emergency relief bill in early 2021 and remain steadfast in their opposition to other aspects of Biden’s economic agenda.

“I refuse to let them stand in the way of this recovery and now my focus is on keeping this recovery strong and durable notwithstanding Republican obstructionism,” Biden said.

The President credited that massive emergency Covid-19 relief bill that Democrats in Congress passed last year and his administration’s national Covid-19 vaccination program with getting the economy “moving again” after being battered by the pandemic.

“Record job creation, record unemployment, declines, record increases in the people in the labor force. I would argue the Biden economic plan is working. And is getting America back to work, back on its feet,” Biden said.

Looking toward the future, Biden said he believed Covid-19 “as we are dealing with it now, is not here to stay.” The President pointed to the vaccines and treatments that have been developed and all of the tools the nation and the world has to contain the virus.

“We’re going to be able to control this. The new normal is not going to be what it is now. It’s going to be better,” Biden said.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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