By Jeff Mason and Jonnelle Marte
(Reuters) -The White House predicted a “long way to go” for the U.S. economic recovery on Friday after a disappointing April jobs report.
U.S. job growth unexpectedly slowed in April, likely restrained by shortages of workers and raw materials.
U.S. President Joe Biden and his team have said his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, the Democratic president’s first major legislative accomplishment, is helping to bring the economy back from its pandemic plummet.
The White House is pressing for trillions of dollars more in spending on infrastructure, education and other priorities. Republicans, however, object to the high price tag of Biden’s initiatives and critics have raised concerns about inflation and a disincentive, thanks to generous unemployment benefits, for people to return to the workforce.
The White House dismissed that criticism on Friday and said the report showed the impact of the pandemic remained broad.
“We have a long way to go. This report emphasizes how steep the climb is out of this crisis, and it shows the importance of the American Rescue Plan,” Jared Bernstein, a member of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview with Reuters.
Bernstein said no course correction was required from the White House, a theme echoed by Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, who pressed for passage of Biden’s next legislative push.
“The disappointing April jobs report highlights the urgent need to pass President Biden’s American Jobs and Families Plans,” she said in a statement. “We need to take bold action to Build Back Better from this crisis by investing in our nation, our workers and our families.”
Republicans viewed it differently.
“Why is anyone surprised that the jobs reports fell short of expectations?,” said Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida on Twitter. “I told you weeks ago that in #Florida I hear from #smallbusinesses every day that they can’t hire people because the government is having them not go back to work.”
The share of Americans who are either working or looking for work rose last month, and the number of people who said they are not looking for jobs because of COVID-19 fell by 900,000 in April, Bernstein said, pushing back against criticism from some employers that the benefits had kept some people from returning to the workplace.
“Thus far, we don’t see a correlation between unemployment insurance benefits and lack of employment,” he said.
“What we do see is a lot of people who are still hesitant to go back to work because of safety concerns, care issues, schooling issues, and we’ll continue to watch this very closely.”
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