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Former Obama Adviser Blames Poor Jobs Report on School Closures

Then-White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austan Goolsbee addresses the Wall Street Journal CEO Council in 2010. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Former Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee commented Friday on MSNBC Reports on the April jobs report that “women had a net job loss” because “schools remained closed.”

Goolsbee added that employers across the country that disproportionately hire women will likely continue to suffer significant labor shortages until we “get daycare going” and reopen schools.

He also said that many raw materials, such as steel, and an array of other goods are still in short supply.

Goolsbee’s statement comes after the April jobs report indicated that U.S. jobs growth fell 800,000 short of expectations, the largest discrepancy between reported numbers and projections since 1998. The actual jobs increase was only 266,000, despite relaxed COVID restrictions, higher rates of vaccination, and a significant drop in new coronavirus cases in many states.

Critics of school closures have repeatedly pointed to the adverse effects of virtual learning on children’s academic performance as well as the toll on working women. With schools closed, many women have been forced to juggle childcare and homeschooling with their jobs, causing some to temporarily or permanently leave the labor force altogether.

Evidence has shown that opening schools does not increase community transmission and that the coronavirus poses little statistical risk to young children. Think tanks such as the Brookings Institution have identified a strong relationship between school re-opening decisions, politics, and lobbying by teacher’s unions, however.

A National Bureau of Economic research study indicated that the Biden administration’s expansion of unemployment assistance was tied to a drop in job applications, suggesting another possible explanation for the poor April jobs report.

At a press briefing on Friday, President Joe Biden rejected the suggestion that enhanced federal unemployment benefits were connected with the disappointing job growth performance last month.

When a reporter asked Biden whether the unemployment assistance contributed to lack of new jobs, Biden said, “No, nothing measurable.”

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