Politics & Policy

Biden Denies Enhanced Unemployment Benefits Contributed to Lagging Jobs Numbers

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the state of coronavirus vaccinations from the State Dining Room at the White House, May 4, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

President Biden denied that enhanced federal unemployment benefits contributed to a disappointing April jobs report, in a press conference on Friday.

The April jobs report showed an increase of 266,000 jobs, roughly 800,000 jobs short of economists’ projections. While Republicans have cited enhanced federal unemployment benefits as contributing to workers’ reticence to fill the millions of open positions, Biden denied that this was the case.

“No, nothing measurable,” Biden said when asked by a reporter whether unemployment benefits contributed to the slow-down. Democrats’ coronavirus relief bill passed in February includes $300 in enhanced federal unemployment benefits, which can be claimed through September 6.

“Today’s report just underscores in my view just how vital the actions we are taking are,” Biden told reporters. “Our actions are starting to work, but the climb is steep and we still have a long way to go.”

Biden added, “I know some employers are having trouble filling jobs but what this report shows is that there is a much bigger problem…it’s that our economy still has 8 million fewer jobs than when this pandemic started. The data shows that more workers are looking for jobs and many can’t find them.”

The American Rescue Plan, Democrats’ $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation, is “working,” Biden said. The White House believes the jobs report emphasizes the need for unemployment benefits, a senior administration official told the Washington Post.

However, Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) criticized the legislation over its extended unemployment benefits.

“We should be clear about the policy failure at work here: There are 7,400,000 jobs open in the U.S. — but fewer than 3,000,000 found work last month,” Sasse said in a statement. “Why? This tragedy is what happens when Washington know-it-all’s decide to pretend they’re generous by paying more for unemployment than for work.”

While economists suggested that April could see an increase of between 700,000 and 1,000,000 jobs, the estimate turned out to be the largest miss since at least 1998. The U.S. has restored 63 percent of jobs lost since the pandemic caused major shutdowns in March 2020, a gap 8.3 million jobs since before the pandemic.

Biden’s Labor Secretary, Marty Walsh, suggested Friday that continued school closures likely contributed to the lackluster jobs report.


Former Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee expressed a similar sentiment during a Friday interview, saying that women have fared especially poorly in job market in recent months because they are forced to care for their children at home.

Teachers unions, particularly those in major coastal cities, have refused to return to classrooms full time, instead pushing for a hybrid model that requires students to learn remotely for some portion of the week. The White House has proven reluctant to criticize the unions, which are a major source of Democratic donations and votes.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.


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