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Biden touts January jobs report that beat expectations despite Omicron surge

By Kate Sullivan, CNN

President Joe Biden on Friday touted the January jobs report that was significantly better than what most economists had predicted, given the rapid surge of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

“Our country is taking everything that Covid has to throw at us and we’ve come back stronger,” Biden said, speaking from the White House.

The economy added 467,000 jobs last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday morning, and revisions showed the winter jobs gains were much stronger than initially reported. But the unemployment rate last month inched up from 3.9% to 4%, which is the first increase in the jobless rate since June 2021.

The report overall is welcome news to an administration struggling to combat soaring inflation and high consumer prices. Global supply chain issues and worker shortages are bogging down the US’ economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, and economic anxiety among the American public is causing Biden’s approval rating to take a hit.

Friday’s job report showed the US economy added 6.6 million jobs during Biden’s first 12 months in office, making it by far the best-ever first year for a president.

“History has been made here,” Biden said. He touted the “historic economic progress,” the country has seen under his administration and credited his economic policies. He praised the Democrats’ Covid-19 emergency relief bill and the bipartisan infrastructure law as essential to the nation’s recovery.

Restaurants and bars, which have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic, added more than 100,000 jobs in January. Logistics and business services jobs also ticked up.

The head of a leading restaurant industry group said the recovery is still incomplete.

“When people working in leisure and hospitality are more than twice as likely to be unemployed, it’s hard to argue the economy is thriving,” said Erika Polmar, executive director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition.

Between November and December, the number of positions added was more than 700,000 jobs higher than initially reported, the government reported on Friday. Jobs gains were also stronger in January and February 2021. But over the summer, the revisions did the opposite. The employment change for June and July was more than 800,000 positions lower than previously reported.

“I know it hasn’t been easy. I know that January was a very hard month for many Americans. I know that after almost two years, the physical and emotional weight of the pandemic has been incredibly difficult to bear for so many people,” Biden said.

“But here’s the good news,” Biden continued. “We have the tools to save lives and to keep businesses open and keep schools open. Keep workers on the job.”

The President noted his administration is sending millions of at-home Covid-19 tests and high-quality masks to Americans and community health centers across the country, and touted the wide availability of Covid-19 vaccines and booster shots. The Biden administration is also making thousands of treatment courses of Pfizer’s FDA-authorized antiviral pill available.

The President also hailed his administration’s efforts to address supply chain issues and vowed to continue working to lower prices for American families, including high gas and grocery prices.

Biden noted prices for automobiles remain too high because of global semiconductor shortages and said the new chip manufacturing plant that Intel recently announced it is building in Ohio will help fix that problem. Automobile prices account for one-third of the annual price increases in the core consumer price index.

“These semiconductors and microchips power virtually everything in our everyday lives. From our cell phones to automobiles, the refrigerators, the internet, the electric grid. Without semiconductors, these things do not function in a modern economy,” Biden said.

The President also praised the Democrat-led House of Representatives passing a bill earlier Friday aimed at making the US more competitive on the global stage and countering China’s growing economic influence.

The bill — America COMPETES Act of 2022 — would make sweeping investments in American manufacturing and scientific research and development as well as changes to trade policy.

This story has been updated with additional developments on Friday.

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