President Biden on Friday hailed a rocketing February jobs report as vindication of his economic agenda.
The president’s remarks came just hours after the Labor Department revealed that employers added 311,000 jobs in February, easily surpassing Wall Street analysts’ forecast of 205,000 new jobs. It also marked the second straight month of better-than-expected jobs reports as the economy added 504,000 workers in January.
The nation’s unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 3.6% in February compared with 3.4% in January.
In remarks from the White House, Mr. Biden said the Labor Department report proves the nation’s job market remains strong. He said workers who had been sitting on the sidelines since the coronavirus pandemic have re-entered the workforce.
“Today’s news tells us that thanks to our efforts, 12 million more Americans now have jobs,” Mr. Biden said. “That’s a little more dignity for 12 million Americans. It’s not just good numbers; people can feel it.”
Republicans pushed back on Mr. Biden’s claims. They pointed out that stubborn inflation is cutting into workers’ wages, saying the president needs to do more to tame rising prices.
The Labor Department pointed out that average hourly earnings rose just 0.2% to $33.09 in February, the smallest monthly increase in over a year.
Meanwhile, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel slammed Mr. Biden’s record-high $6.9 trillion proposed budget, released Thursday.
“Biden’s economy is not working, yet he wants to make everything worse with his $6.9 trillion tax-and-spending spree,” she said. “Wages are down, costs are up and American families are being left behind because of Joe Biden’s failures.”
The president said inflation has dropped steadily since last summer, noting gas prices are down about $1.50 per gallon since their peak last year. However, gas prices still remain over $1 more per gallon than when Mr. Biden took office in January 2021, according to data from AAA.
Mr. Biden acknowledged that more work is necessary to combat inflation, but insisted it’s moving in the right direction.
“While we still have more to do and there may be setbacks along the way, inflation is down 30% from what it was [last] summer,” he said.
February’s job growth shows that employers have picked up the pace after hiring eased in late 2022. On average, the monthly job gain between October and December was 284,000. Since 2023 began, the average soared to 351,000.
Those numbers include small revisions released in February’s report that reduced the hiring numbers in December and January. Those months’ nonfarm employment numbers were reduced by 34,000 versus what was previously reported.
The hiring spree may push the Federal Reserve to speed up interest-rate hikes to tame inflation.
A strong job market typically results in businesses paying more for workers and passing those costs on to consumers through higher prices. Increasing interest rates would make it hard for businesses to borrow, reducing spending as well as hiring.
• This story was based in part on wire services.