The president’s last-minute remarks were added to his schedule Friday morning after the Labor Department announced the U.S. economy created a whopping 517,000 jobs in January, a shockingly high number that underscores a growing and resilient labor market. The unemployment rate fell to 3.4 percent, the lowest level since 1969.
Biden cheered the report as evidence the economy has bounced back after the pandemic — and that economics’ predictions of an incoming recession are overblown. The data also arms the White House with another line of defense against Republicans’ attacks over the Biden administration’s spending policies.
And the timing doesn’t hurt either, with the president set to deliver his State of the Union address before Congress next week. “But today, today I’m happy to report that the state of the union and the state of the economy is strong.”
The president’s public remarks were more giddy than West Wing reactions behind closed doors, as officials had hoped for a less-robust figure. Inflation continues to plague the economy, and Friday’s numbers mean Fed Chair Jerome Powell will have to blunt growth in order to curb prices. Powell is concerned that a hot jobs market will drive high wages, further fueling inflation.
But asked whether he should take blame for inflation rates, Biden was definitive: “No, because it was already there when I got here.” He noted that when he took office, “jobs were hemorrhaging, the inflation was rising, and we were not manufacturing a damn thing here, and we were in real difficulty.”
In December, inflation continued to steadily trickle down to 6.5 percent, falling from the Consumer Price Index’s June peak at 9.1 percent. Powell is working to get inflation down to the central bank’s target range of 2 percent, and the Fed raised interest rates by a quarter of a percent on Wednesday — the eighth straight increase.
He warned on Wednesday that more rate hikes were coming, noting that “the job is not fully done.”
Ben White contributed to this report.