WASHINGTON – Still testing positive for COVID-19 and just a week after metrics suggested the US economy had entered a recession, President Joe Biden donned his signature Ray-Ban sunglasses on Friday for a triumphant lap over a strong employment report.
“It is the lowest unemployment rate in the United States in the last 50 years: 3.5%. Yes, 3.5%. There are more people working in America today than before the pandemic started,” Biden told a small group of reporters gathered before him on the balcony of the Blue Room overlooking the South Lawn. “In fact, there are more people working than at any other time in the history of the United States.”
The Labor Department announced Friday that the economy had added a staggering 528,000 new jobs in July, more than double what economists had predicted. Figures for previous months were also revised slightly upwards.
On July 28, a separate federal report showed that the country’s gross domestic product had contracted 0.9% in the second three months of the year, the second consecutive quarter of negative growth. That has been the shorthand definition of recessions in the past. But it may not be an accurate indicator after the government’s pandemic response, which involved pumping trillions into the economy to prevent it from collapsing.
Biden didn’t mention that, instead focusing on the employment situation, which included another big increase in the number of manufacturing jobs.
“Today’s jobs report is part of a larger story,” Biden said. He then went on to attribute the numbers to his economic policies. He also took advantage of the occasion to sell the new agreement between congressmen Democrats to pass a scaled-down version of the comprehensive “Build Back Better” agenda that he pushed on the campaign trail and in his first year and a half in office.
Biden said he understands that many Americans are struggling due to high inflation rates, but that the new compromise legislation, which lead architect Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), called the Inflation Reduction Act, will help address that.
“This bill is a game changer for working families in our economy,” he said.
Biden tested positive for COVID-19 on July 21. However, with the initial vaccinations and two booster doses, his symptoms were mild, according to the White House. He was also prescribed the new antiviral Paxlovid and continued to work throughout the period.
After testing negative on July 26, Biden started testing positive again on Saturday, a common occurrence among those who have taken Paxlovid.