By Trevor Hunnicutt
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Unemployment is falling and wages are rising, President Joe Biden said on Friday, as his administration touted an employment report that left some economists concerned about the state of the U.S. labor market.
“This is historic progress,” Biden said in a speech. “None of these successes are an accident. It’s not luck.”
The closely watched Labor Department’s employment report on Friday showed 559,000 non-farm jobs were created last month, with wages rising, though millions of unemployed Americans remained at home.
Economists polled by Reuters predicted even stronger job growth of 650,000 jobs created in May, and say factors preventing people from working may include a lack of child care and generous unemployment checks. Employment is about 7.6 million below its peak in February 2020. Rising wages are good for workers, but threaten employer profits and risk sparking inflation.
Republicans are pushing to cut unemployment checks, with GOP governors leading half of U.S. states cutting billions of dollars from unemployment benefits to residents.
An additional $ 300 in unemployment benefits was a key part of Biden’s stimulus package adopted in March to help the United States survive the coronavirus recession.
Heather Boushey, a member of Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers, said the White House was not pressuring states to take the money because “labor markets are local.”
“We always knew that jobs would start to come back as soon as we were focused on the pandemic, and those extra benefits – many of them expire in September,” she said. “So it’s only been a few more months now that people have access to it, and they have provided very important support to American families.”
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Andrea Ricci)