There was a mixed bag of news coming out of the December jobs report released by the Labor Department Friday. The unemployment rate fell to a pandemic low 3.9%, but the United States only added about 199,000 jobs. That’s down from the 210,000 jobs added in November, which in itself was the slowest hiring pace in nearly a year.
According to the report, “employment continued to trend up in leisure and hospitality, in professional and business services, in manufacturing, in construction, and in transportation and warehousing” in December.
“In December, employment showed little or no change in other major industries, including retail trade, information, financial activities, health care, other services, and government,” the report said.
Despite the sluggish growth in the December jobs report, President Joe Biden touted the country’s job recovery over the past year Friday. The video above shows clips from his speech.
“We have added 6.4 million new jobs since January of last year, in one year…that’s the most jobs in any calendar year by any president in history,” President Biden said. The economy is still about 3.6 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic level. Biden added that December was “the first time the unemployment rate has been under four percent in the first year of a presidential term in 50 years.”
Wages also rose sharply in December, with average hourly pay jumping 4.7% compared with a year ago. Experts have warned that low unemployment and rapid wage gains could further heighten inflation, as companies raise prices to cover rising labor costs. To combat inflation, most economists expect the Federal Reserve to raise its benchmark short-term rate two or three times in 2022, beginning in March. In addition, minutes from the Fed’s December meeting released earlier this week showed officials had discussed shrinking the U.S. central bank’s overall asset holdings.
Economists have cautioned that job growth may slow in January and possibly February due to the surging Omicron variant of COVID-19. The variant has forced millions of newly infected Americans to stay home and quarantine, causing staffing shortages in various industries.
Joe Biden, U.S. President: “I think it’s a historic day for our economic recovery. Today’s national unemployment rate fell below four percent to 3.9 percent, the sharpest one year drop in unemployment in the United States history. The first time the unemployment rate has been under four percent in the first year of a presidential term in 50 years. 3.9 percent unemployment rate, years faster than experts said we’d be able to do it, and we have added 6.4 million new jobs since January of last year, in one year. That’s one of the most, that’s the most jobs in any calendar year by any president in history.”
“America is back to work, and there are more historical accomplishments. The increase in Americans joining the labor force was the fastest this year of any year since 1996, and among prime age workers ages 25 to 54, their increase in labor force participation was the biggest in 43 years. Record job creation, record unemployment declines, record increases in the people in the labor force. I would argue the Biden economic plan is working. And is getting America back to work, back on its feet.”
“There’s been a lot of press coverage about people quitting their jobs. Well, today’s report tells you why. Americans are moving up to better jobs with better pay, with better benefits. That’s why they’re quitting their jobs. This isn’t about workers walking away and refusing to work. It’s about workers able to take a step up, provide for themselves and their families. This is the kind of recovery I promised and hoped for for the American people, where the biggest benefits go to the people who work the hardest and are more often left behind. The people who have been ignored before.”
“Now I hear Republicans say today that my talking about this strong record shows that I don’t understand, I don’t understand. A lot of people are still suffering they say, well, they are. Or that I’m not focused on inflation, malarkey. They want to talk down the recovery because they voted against the legislation that made it happen. They voted against the tax cuts for middle class families. They voted against the funds we needed to reopen our schools, to keep police officers and firefighters on the job, to lower health care premiums. They voted against the funds we’re now using to buy COVID booster shots and more antiviral pills. I refused to let them stand in the way of this recovery and now, my focus is on keeping this recovery strong and durable, notwithstanding Republican obstructionism.”
“No, I don’t think COVID is here to stay, but having COVID in the environment here and in the world is probably here to stay. But COVID, as we’re dealing with it now is not here to stay. The new normal doesn’t have to be. We have so many more tools we’re developing and continuing to develop that can contain COVID and other strains of COVID. So, I don’t believe this is that … if you take a look, we’re very different today than we were a year ago, even though we still have problems. But 90% of the schools are open now was 98, is down to 90, but is open now because we spent the time and the money in the Recovery Act to provide for the ability of schools to remain open. And you know what we’re doing now as we talked about, you know, how we’re dealing with with testing. Well, you know, we have been doing now. We’ve had 300 million tests per month so far and that’s 11 million tests a day. In addition to that, we’ve we’re in the process of ordering 500,000 new tests. And so we’re going to be able to control this. The new normal is not going to be what it is now. It’s going to be better. Thank you very much.”