President Biden on Friday defended his economic record after another disappointing jobs report, calling it “more evidence of the progress we’re making.”
“Jobs up, wages up, unemployment down. That’s progress,” Mr. Biden said at the White House.
U.S. employers added just 194,000 jobs in September, a second straight tepid gain and evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic still has a grip on the economy with many companies struggling to fill millions of open jobs.
Mr. Biden said of the lower-than-expected hiring gains, “The monthly totals bounce around, but if you take a look at the trend, it’s solid.”
The Labor Department’s report showed that the unemployment rate fell sharply to 4.8% from 5.2% in August. That’s partly caused by a large number of people who have stopped looking for jobs, but the president pointed to it as “a sign that our recovery is moving forward.”
“For the first time since March 2020, the American unemployment rate is below 5%,” Mr. Biden said.
The economy is showing some signs of emerging from the drag of the delta variant of the coronavirus, with confirmed new COVID-19 infections declining, restaurant traffic picking up slightly and consumers eager to spend.
Some of the factors that have kept many jobless people on the sidelines may be starting to ease. According to a survey by the Census Bureau, for example, the number of people who aren’t working because they must stay home to care for a child declined by half in September from June.
Mr. Biden said his administration still has more work to do, and he said it’s imperative for Congress to approve two big spending proposals that are stalled by Democrats feuding with each other.
Republicans said the jobs report was further proof that Mr. Biden’s policies have failed.
“This is more dreadful news for America’s slowing recovery, for Main Street businesses struggling to find workers, and for families whose paychecks just can’t keep up with higher prices,” said Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee. “President Biden is now a whopping 944,000 jobs short of what he promised from his last stimulus and worse, has lost the confidence of the American people to lead the economy.
“If this were a football team with this losing record, the coach would be searching for a new job at this point.”
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the president’s agenda “continues to hurt American workers, drive up the cost of everyday goods, and crush small businesses.”
“The latest jobs report, creating 300,000 fewer jobs than expected, proves that trillions more in reckless spending and higher taxes will only further squander the economic recovery and leave working families behind. Americans cannot afford Biden’s disastrous ‘Build Back Broke’ agenda,” she said.
• This article is based in part on wire-service reports.