Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Friday the White House plans to ramp up the pace of its economic recovery efforts as the government reported the unemployment rate jumped to its highest level in more than a quarter century.
Addressing reporters, Mr. Biden said the latest jobs report reflects how millions of Americans are still hurting, but he also said there were some signs of hope today.
The jobless rate in May shot up from 8.9 percent to 9.4 percent and 345,000 more jobs were slashed from company payrolls.
Economists said they had expected even larger jobs cuts, and the smaller numbers offered a sign that the worst recession in decades may be starting to give way. Mr. Biden quickly tempered his hopeful words by saying that the White House is not satisfied with getting a less gloomy report. The mission remains to create jobs, he said.
Let me be very clear: A lower [rate of job losses] is not our goal, Mr. Biden said. ‘Less bad’ is not how we’re going to measure success.
Mr. Biden, Mr. Obama’s point person in overseeing the massive $787 billion economic stimulus recovery plan, has defended the pace of spending as critics have complained that money for roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects has been slow to arrive.
The vice president said he will join Mr. Obama on Monday in announcing plans to ramp up implementation of the stimulus program over the summer, declining to give more details ahead of the announcement.
Mr. Biden said there were signs that the efforts by Congress and the White House are helping, citing a big drop in construction unemployment. Again, though, he balanced any optimism by cautioning that there will be more setbacks on the road before we get finally to recovery.
To sum it up— encouraging signs, but a long, long way to go, the vice president said.
Since the recession began in December 2007, the economy has lost a net total of 6 million jobs.
Mr. Biden spoke at the start of an economic briefing with Christina Romer, chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and Jared Bernstein, his chief economist.