(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden said the surprisingly strong February jobs report shows his economic policies are working, though he acknowledged that wage growth isn’t keeping up with extraordinary U.S. inflation.
Non-farm payrolls increased by 678,000 last month, the most since July, data from the Labor Department showed, beating estimates. However, wage growth slowed, signaling that overheated inflation will continue to eat into Americans’ purchasing power.
The report is “a welcome reminder that we’re coming back stronger both as a country and as a people,” Biden said at the White House, but he acknowledged that the last year was “punishing.”
“So many families are still struggling, though, to make ends meet because of inflation,” he added. “I understand that our top priority still must be getting prices under control.”
An earlier statement from Biden touted the job gains without mentioning wages. Average hourly earnings were little changed in February from the prior month.
The U.S. economy has added about 7.4 million jobs since Biden took office, though that was in the depths of the coronavirus pandemic. In his statement, Biden praised the broad-based gains, saying there were additions in several sectors.
Biden’s again called on Congress to pass parts of his “Build Back Better” agenda in his State of the Union speech this week. The plan died last year after West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said he wouldn’t support it.
Biden has rebranded his effort as “Building a Better America,” though Manchin remains cool to the notion, citing inflation and excessive government spending as top concerns. With the Senate divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans and the GOP uniformly opposed to Biden’s economic policies, he can’t win their passage without Manchin’s support.
Cecilia Rouse, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said on Bloomberg Television that Biden’s team is focused on trends in wage growth “because months can be noisy.”
“We’ve seen real wage growth in lower-paid jobs and industries,” but she acknowledged that “inflation has been higher than nominal wage growth.”
“Look, that’s not what we hope,” she added.
The president, she said, is “looking for economic policies that generate sustained economic growth, that generate wage increases, that are powered by increases in productivity, and so that is why he is doing all that he can to both reduce prices and costs for families, to increase economic capacity so that we do have a really healthy economic recovery where everybody benefits as we have some economic growth.”
(Updates with Rouse beginning in ninth paragraph)
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Biden Touts Job Growth and Nods at U.S. Inflation Struggle
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