President-elect Joe Biden on Friday seized upon the latest monthly snapshot of the United States jobs market to urge lawmakers in Washington to immediately pass another round of virus relief aid for struggling household and businesses, as well as state and local governments.
Describing the November jobs numbers as “dire”, Biden warned, “this situation is urgent. If we don’t act now the future will be very bleak.”
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The US economy added only 245,000 jobs last month, government figures showed on Friday, a disappointing read that signals the labour market recovery has slowed sharply, leaving millions of out-of-work Americans behind.
Only a little more than 12 million of the 22 million jobs lost during lockdowns in March and April have been recovered. And though the nation’s unemployment rate edged down slightly to 6.7 percent in November, it fell because fewer people are participating in the labour force either by working or actively looking for a job.
Invoking his own father’s struggles with unemployment, Biden urged Congress and President Donald Trump to “act now” and pass a new round of fiscal relief before the end of December when more virus relief aid programmes will lapse.
Among the key programmes set to expire are jobless benefits for the self-employed and gig workers, the federal moratorium on evictions, emergency paid leave, relief for student loan debt repayments, and funding that helps state and local governments pay for the public health response to the pandemic.
‘States and cities need funding to direct their COVID response which is the only way we’re going to end the economic crisis as well,” said Biden.
The president-elect said he was encouraged by a $908bn bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill advanced by senators this week.
That is less than half of the $2.2bn package Democrats in the House of Representatives have floated, but they used the bipartisan effort to extend an olive branch to Senate Republicans, saying the compromise bill could be used as starting point for negotiations.
Biden expressed confidence that legislators in Congress, as well as President Donald Trump, could overcome their differences and reach a deal before the end of the year. But he added that any package passed during the lame-duck session would be a “down payment” and that Congress would have to “act again in January”.