On Friday, the April jobs report came out. It was providential timing for the Biden administration, since it meant some truly horrendous employment numbers were only in the news cycle for a day before the weekend hit.
According to Axios, the economy added 266,000 jobs last month, a mere 800,000 less than economists had been predicting — the largest single miss in decades. Unemployment ticked up to 6.1 percent, and March’s job report was revised lower, too.
Speaking at a news conference later on Friday, the president expressly denied that enhanced federal unemployment benefits had anything to do with it.
“No, nothing measurable,” Biden said, according to National Review.
“I know some employers are having trouble filling jobs but what this report shows is that there is a much bigger problem … it’s that our economy still has 8 million fewer jobs than when this pandemic started. The data shows that more workers are looking for jobs and many can’t find them.”
That might still be an issue, but so are the perverse incentives of a continued unemployment benefits scheme where people are paid double the minimum wage to remain jobless.
“That nearly tripled to $938 in April 2020, when [then-President Donald] Trump passed COBRA – a temporary economic plan that boosted weekly unemployment payments by $600 and also gave employed people one-off stimulus checks,” the Mail reported. “COBRA expired in July and the unemployment boost was halved to $300-a-week. Now, they are $638-a-week on average and they’ll stay that way until September 6 at least.”
“It means, someone who was working 40 hours a week before the pandemic now gets nearly $16-an-hour to do nothing at home, which is more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25.”
The president’s American Rescue Plan extended them to Sept. 6 — and if Biden has his way, one assumes he could potentially extend them further. Yet, as the Daily Mail noted, a Bank of America estimate found that anyone making $32,000 or less would be better off staying unemployed than going back to work.
Philippe Massoud, CEO of a Lebanese restaurant in New York City, told the New York Post that he’d “left no stone unturned” in trying to fill 15 positions, but he simply couldn’t find people willing to take them — and he blamed the unemployment checks.
“If I was working a back-breaking job and making $600 a week and I had had the option of making $600 and not breaking my back — the choice is obvious,” he said.
“The government unintentionally shot itself in the foot,” Massoud added. “The stimulus plan is being completely undermined by the unemployment program.”
“Every hospitality owner I know is suffering. We just cannot find workers at all,” restaurateur Robert Mahon told the Daily Mail.
“A lot of them have changed industries into construction, for example, or others have just moved away. What we’re seeing is a major wage increase and an increase in vendor costs. This is going to lead to higher prices on food checks so when customers are paying 20 percent more in their bills, they’ll know why.
“It’s inflation across the board, in every aspect, and it’s here now,” he added. “We’re no longer waiting for it — it has arrived.”
Republicans aren’t unworried as Biden is about the additional $300 in unemployment payments.
“We should be clear about the policy failure at work here: There are 7,400,000 jobs open in the U.S. — but fewer than 3,000,000 found work last month,” said Republican Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse in a statement, according to National Review. “Why? This tragedy is what happens when Washington know-it-all’s decide to pretend they’re generous by paying more for unemployment than for work.”
Meanwhile, Republican Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte pulled his state out of the unemployment plan earlier in the week, instead promising bonuses for residents who go back into the workforce.
“Montana is open for business again, but I hear from too many employers throughout our state who can’t find workers. Nearly every sector in our economy faces a labor shortage,” said Gianforte in a news release.
“Incentives matter,” he added, “and the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good. We need to incentivize Montanans to reenter the workforce. Our return-to-work bonus and the return to pre-pandemic unemployment programs will help get more Montanans back to work.”
The federal government cannot continue to support everyone making under $32,000 on unemployment benefits indefinitely. A few more job numbers like April’s and rest assured, there are going to be other governors looking to follow in Gianforte’s footsteps.
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