The January jobs report released Friday morning was predicted to be weak thanks to the omicron surge, and Republicans were doing victory laps in advance. Former Trump mouthpiece Sean Spicer tweeted that “the White House spin on tomorrow's jobs report will be fun.”
On Fox & Friends: ”How does the White House spin this?” and “What vaccine do you get for job loss?” and, in giant red letters, “MORE JOB LOSSES.”
Well, it turned out the White House doesn’t need to spin anything. Friday morning, it was President Joe Biden who had the opportunity to take a victory lap—this one based on the facts, not wishful thinking. “America’s job machine is going stronger than ever,” Biden said, touting truly impressive jobs numbers. Not only did January’s jobs report seriously exceed expectations, but November and December’s jobs reports were revised upward by huge numbers. Dow Jones had estimated 150,000 new jobs in January. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reality was 467,000 new jobs.
”This morning's [jobs] report caps off my first year as president, and over that period, our economy created 6.6 million jobs,” Biden said. “If you can't remember any year when so many people went to work in this country, there's a reason: It never happened.”
It wasn’t all victory lap, of course. Biden spoke about the weight of the pandemic, especially after two years of death and disruption. He called for more investment in jobs and workers. He acknowledged inflation that has increased prices on key items. But Biden was able to point to specific policies that have contributed to this growth, and ones that would fight price increases. The American Rescue Plan in particular has boosted the economy, leading to a much faster recovery than expected.
Biden made the case that provisions of his Build Back Better plan would have a similar positive effect on the economy, and would specifically ease the financial pressures many families are now feeling, pointing to child care costs and insulin costs in particular.
“Let’s face these challenges head on,” he concluded. “Let’s keep building a better America.”
In the January jobs report, December was originally reported at 199,000 new jobs, but has been revised up to 510,000. November went from 249,000 (which was already an upward revision from the original number of 210,000) to 647,000. Between those two months, that’s an upward revision of 709,000. It follows months of big misses leading to historic revisions to job growth numbers. As the string of revisions shows, the pandemic has made life very difficult for the people who track labor statistics.
The Economic Policy Institute’s Elise Gould highlighted some key figures in the report. While omicron apparently didn’t weaken job growth, it did lead to “unprecedented levels of workers out sick in January.” Even leisure and hospitality added jobs, despite the typical large impact of coronavirus surges on that sector, but nonetheless, there are still 1.75 million fewer leisure and hospitality jobs than there were in January 2020. Public sector employment is another area that significantly lags behind its January 2020 numbers, with 735,000 lost jobs. Black unemployment also remains an area of concern: It’s twice as high as unemployment in white workers. The big picture, though, is one of improvement.
“Overall,” Gould summed up, “employment remains 2.9 million (or 1.9%) below pre-pandemic conditions. Taking into account population growth since Feb 2020, the jobs shortfall is around 4.5 million. Given recent strong trends, that shortfall can be closed by the end of this year.”