President Biden touted the nation’s job growth on Friday while defending himself against criticism that inflation has erased workers’ wage gains over the past year.
He said a new jobs report, which showed 431,000 jobs added in March, and the unemployment rate down to 3.6%, was a reason to celebrate.
“Americans are back to work. And that’s good news for the millions of families who have a little more breathing room, and the dignity that comes from earning a paycheck, just the dignity of having a job,” Mr. Biden said at the White House.
The March jobs report was slightly below Wall Street’s expectations, the Department of Labor revised its January and February numbers to show 95,000 jobs added in those months. The unemployment rate, however, beat expectations.
So far, the U.S. economy has recuperated about 90% of the 22 million jobs lost at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, a faster recovery than analysts had expected, according to the report from the Department of Labor.
It is the 11th straight month that employers have added at least 400,000 jobs.
Still, the report contained mixed news for Mr. Biden, who has been hammered for months by Republicans for his handling of the economy.
Soaring gas prices hit consumer spending, which increased by 0.2% in February, down from a 2.7% increase in January, according to Commerce Department data.
Inflation also impacted salaries, reducing consumers’ spending power. Hourly pay dropped 2.6% in February, marking the 11th straight month in which inflation has outpaced wage growth, the Commerce Department said.
Alfredo Ortiz, the CEO of the conservative Jobs Creators Network, said the stifled wage growth has undermined the number of new jobs created.
“The jobs day data confirms that Bidenflation is causing a ‘Biden pay cut’ that’s resulting in lower living standards for Americans. Biden refuses to accept responsibility or change course,” he said. “His massive budget announced this week is full of more reckless spending and green energy policies that would further accelerate inflation and make Americans even poorer.”
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said Mr. Biden’s policies have left wages lagging.
“Hardworking Americans are being left behind because of 40-year high inflation, falling real wages, and the Biden gas hike. Despite the burden of Biden’s failed agenda, Republican-led states are driving the economic recovery and getting Americans back to work,” she said.
Mr. Biden said that as more Americans return to work, they will move goods faster thus resulting in less inflation.
“And more and more Americans get jobs as they do, it’s going to help ease the supply pressures we’ve seen and that’s good news for fighting inflation and good news for our economy,” he said. “It means our economy has gone from being on the mend to being on the move.”
He also said that the job numbers show Americans are finding higher-paying jobs but did not address that some of those gains have been wiped out by rising inflation.
“People are making more money and finding better jobs,” he said. American workers have real power now to get better wages and do what’s best for themselves and their family.”
March’s job numbers show that normalcy is returning to the U.S. job market as coronavirus cases drop along with mask mandates and other restrictions.
Consumers are booking plane tickets and hotels, dining out and traveling, which is also fueling a surge in demand and adds to inflationary pressure.
The demand has also resulted in significant job gains in the leisure and hospitality industry.
The leisure and hospitality sector gained 112,000 jobs in March with roughly of those jobs opening up in restaurants and bars, according to the Labor Department. Hotels added 25,000 jobs last month.
Despite the strong gains, overall leisure and hospitality employment is down by about 1.5 million jobs or 8.7% since February 2020, the last month before the pandemic hit.
The retail industry also showed gains as more Americans are willing to head out to the stores. Retailers added 49,000 jobs in March, with merchandise stores accounting for about 20,000 of those jobs. Food and beverage stores added 18,000 jobs last month.
Overall, the retail sector has added 278,000 more jobs than it did before the pandemic.
The number of teleworkers also dropped, a sign that the coronavirus’s impact is waning, the Labor Department said. Roughly 13% of the U.S. workforce telecommuted in February, down from 22.7% in February 2021.