Joe Biden Pushes Back Against Critics of Unemployment Boost, Disappointing Jobs Report

President Joe Biden is pushing back against critics who have argued that higher unemployment benefits prompted the disappointing jobs report released Friday.

"There are millions, millions Americans out there who, through no fault of their own, have been knocked flat on their backs this past year, as the virus stole their jobs," Biden said in a public address on the jobs numbers. "While jobs are coming back, there's still millions of people out there looking for work and the idea that they don't want to work.… A job is a lot more than a paycheck. It's a job. It's about your respect your dignity, your place in the community."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the American economy added 266,000 jobs in April—well below the million jobs that had been anticipated.

While Biden conceded that some might "think that we should be disappointed," he went on to say, "We have a long way to go. All told, our economy has added more than 1,500,000 new jobs since I took office."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others have pointed to the April numbers to call on Congress to end the $300-a-month boost to unemployment benefits that started last year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The disappointing jobs report makes it clear that paying people not to work is dampening what should be a stronger jobs market," Chamber executive vice president Neil Bradley said in a statement Friday. "Based on the Chamber's analysis, the $300 benefit results in approximately one in four recipients taking home more in unemployment than they earned working."

The enhanced unemployment started last year as part of a relief package Congress passed as the coronavirus swept the country. It was also included in the relief package adopted in March.

Biden critics also have used the jobs numbers to call for more reopening of schools and businesses.

"Our efforts are starting to work, but the climb is steep, and we still have a long way to go," Biden said.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh also pushed back against criticism over the numbers.

"Labor force participation is at its highest point since last August and the number of people expressing hesitancy about returning to work due to the coronavirus is at its lowest point in the pandemic," Walsh said in a statement.

Joe Biden addresses disappointing jobs report
President Joe Biden speaks about the April jobs report at the White House on May 7. The U.S. economy gained just 266,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate increased slightly to 6.1 percent, the Labor Department reported May 7, defying expectations for massive rehiring as the COVID-19 pandemic ebbs. SAUL LOEB / AFP/Getty Images