Biden plays up jobs gains but can’t shake bigger economic woes

President Biden is striking an optimistic note on the economy but, pollsters say, most Americans expect the already tough situation to get worse.

In a speech in suburban Cincinnati, Mr. Biden put a positive spin on a Labor Department jobs report that showed the U.S. continuing to create jobs but inflation wiping out much of that prosperity for lower-and middle-class Americans.

“Today’s job report shows our plans and priorities have produced the strongest job creation in the modern times of the American economy,” Mr. Biden said Friday at an Ohio metals company. “We have now created a total of 8.3 million jobs in my first 15 months in office.”

Despite those positive numbers, polls show voters are pessimistic about the economy, which is expected to be the decisive issue in the midterm elections.

Voters are fed up with inflation, which is at the highest level since 1981 as prices for household goods, gas, and groceries have all soared. U.S. Gross Domestic Product has declined by 1.4% in the first quarter of 2022, the first time the GDP has dropped since the beginning of the pandemic.

A CNBC-All America Economic Survey released last month showed that 47% of voters rated the economy as “poor,” the highest number since 2012. Only 17% said the economy was “excellent or good,” the lowest number since 2014.

A majority — 56% — said they expect a recession within the next year, while 1 in 10 said they are “falling backward.”

Rep. Tim Ryan, who is the Democratic Party’s Ohio Senate nominee, didn’t attend Mr. Biden’s event. His absence suggested that Democrats in tough races are keeping their distance from the president, whose low approval ratings have become a drag on the party’s candidates.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki downplayed Mr. Ryan’s absence, saying he needed to attend a funeral and had “other events.”

She noted that Ohio’s two senators, Sherrod Brown, a Democrat who isn’t up for reelection, and Rob Portman, a Republican, would speak at the event.

Still, Mr. Ryan’s absence ahead of one of the most competitive midterm races in the country signals concern that public perception of Mr. Biden’s handling of the economy could drag down Democrats.

“We’ve had a year of really strong growth coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, Biden’s economic approval has plummeted and concerns about the cost of living have skyrocketed,” said Micah Roberts, a pollster with Public Opinion Strategies. “From a public opinion standpoint, these job numbers haven’t had an impact and I don’t think they will have an impact going forward on people’s perception of the economy.”

SEE ALSO: Biden says ‘more work to do’ on inflation, calls on Republicans in Congress to help

The Labor Department report showed the U.S. economy added 428,000 jobs in April marking the 12th straight month of job growth above 400,000. It also showed that the unemployment rate remained at 3.6%, the lowest level in nearly 50 years.

The job creation numbers topped Wall Street analysts’ forecasts of about 391,000 new jobs.

The report also showed average hourly earnings for workers climbed by 0.3% in April compared to a month earlier. Earnings grew at a slower pace than the 0.5% recorded in March.

Rising prices, fueled by record level inflation, erased much of U.S. workers’ wage gains. Costs for food, housing and gasoline have pushed inflation to the highest level in 40 years, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said last month.

Consumer prices jumped 8.5% in March, the fastest inflation rate since 1981, and wiped out most wage increases.

Mr. Biden acknowledged that he still has some work to do to combat inflation and called on Republicans to help him.

“There’s no question that inflation and high prices are a challenge for families across the country and fighting inflation is a top priority for me,” Mr. Biden said in a statement earlier in the day. “There’s more work to do. I encourage Congressional Republicans to join us in our efforts to lower prices for families across the country by making more in America, strengthening our supply chains, and cutting the energy and prescription drug costs.”

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