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Biden touts May jobs numbers as he pushes for infrastructure funding


President Joe Biden on Friday touted the progress the US has made in its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and argued now is the time to “seize on the economic momentum” and pass his large-scale infrastructure proposal.

“While our progress is undeniable, it is not assured,” Biden said after the government reported Friday morning that 559,000 jobs were added in May.

The President said: “We’re on the right track. Our plan is working. And we’re not going to let up now.”

He argued now is the time to “build on the foundation we laid” in the nation’s recovery and pass his twin economic proposals, the American Jobs Plan and the American Rescue Plan. The proposals would invest heavily in infrastructure, education, paid leave and childcare, among other areas.

“No other major economy in the world is growing as fast as ours. No other major economy is gaining jobs as quickly as ours. And none of this success is an accident. It isn’t luck,” Biden said, speaking from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Biden said: “America is finally on the move again. As we continue this recovery, we’re going to hit some bumps along the way. Of course, that’ll happen. We can’t reboot the world’s largest economy like flipping on a light switch. There’s going to be ups and downs in jobs and economic reports.”

The May jobs report showed the US labor market picking up some steam and was an improvement from the disappointing April jobs report. The unemployment rate also fell to 5.8% in May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

Though it was an improvement from April, which showed a revised 278,000 jobs added, the number of jobs added last month was still less than the 650,000 jobs economists had predicted. The US is also still down 7.6 million jobs compared to February 2020, before lockdowns were put in place across the country to stop the spread of Covid-19.

But labor force participation rate was at 61.6% in May, which shows the unemployment rate went down because people found jobs and not because they dropped out of the workforce.

Biden on Friday touted his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the sweeping $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief law that he signed into law earlier this year, which delivered economic relief directly to Americans and businesses across the country.

More than 50% of American adults are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Covid-19 cases have been declining.

The President’s comments come ahead of a call he is expected to hold with top Republican negotiator Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia about the infrastructure package on Friday afternoon, a source familiar with the plan tells CNN.

Republican lawmakers and the White House remain far apart on reaching a bipartisan deal on an infrastructure proposal. Earlier this week, Biden offered to bring the price tag down to $1 trillion but said he wanted to ensure it amounts to “new money,” and not redirected from funding already approved by Congress as Senate Republicans have been demanding, a GOP source briefed on the talks said.

Biden’s proposal, which initially was $2.25 trillion, centers on rebuilding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and moving the country to more green energy. Republicans have taken issue with the size and scope of the plan, as well as how Biden plans to pay for it. The President has proposed corporate tax hikes to pay for his plan, and Republicans say making any changes to the 2017 tax cuts that were signed into law under then-President Donald Trump is a “red line” in negotiations.

Biden, in past private discussions, has broached the idea of shifting his proposed financing mechanism — a series of corporate tax increases, including raising the rate to 28% from the 21% level set in 2017 — to address GOP concerns.

The proposal put on the table in the meeting with Capito on Wednesday would instead rely on significantly ramped up tax enforcement and implementing a minimum corporate tax of 15%, which would target corporations that have utilized loopholes to avoid paying a significant share of taxes, a source said.

Jared Bernstein, a member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, told MSNBC on Friday morning that the new minimum corporate tax rate is meant to be “a safety net against the kind of loopholes that have pervaded our tax code that have been so beneficial to those at the top.”

Bernstein touted the May jobs report and said the unemployment insurance program has been critical to the nation’s success, and refuted the idea of canceling the insurance at this juncture.

“I hear some of these calls as essentially saying, while we’re making this significant progress to our goals, we should sort of cut the policy short and, you know — stop the car, pull over, get out. No, we have to keep going until we get there,” Bernstein said.

He noted the insurance program will run until early September, which he said was “very much in keeping with the analogy of we’re getting there but we’re not there yet and we have measures in place that will automatically adjust as that program comes off in early September.”

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh on Friday refuted criticism that the expanded unemployment benefits are keeping people from getting back into the workforce. Walsh told CNN’s Poppy Harlow that the benefits, which were passed as part of the President’s American Rescue Plan, are allowing families to “put food on the table and keep a roof over their head as their jobs come back, as their industries open up.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

Article Topic Follows: National Politics

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