Biden says jobs report bolsters case for government spending

President Joe Biden talks about the May jobs report from the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center in Rehoboth Beach, Del., Friday, June 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Joe Biden talks about the May jobs report from the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center in Rehoboth Beach, Del., Friday, June 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

President Joe Biden portrayed the May jobs report as a jumping off point for more spending on infrastructure and education to keep growth going — essentially an argument for his agenda. But the employment numbers issued Friday also hinted at the possible limits of how much government aid can be pumped into the world's largest economy.

“We’re on the right track,” Biden said. “Our plan is working. And we’re not going to let up now. We’re going to continue to move on. I’m extremely optimistic.”

The May jobs report showed the complexity of restarting the economy after a pandemic shutdown and the mixed signals that can result when an unprecedented surge of government spending flows through the economy. Biden can congratulate his administration on 559,000 jobs being added and a 5.8% unemployment rate, yet the hiring was lower than what many economists expected after his $1.9 trillion relief package.

Biden's challenge is to convince Americans that his administration's relief efforts to date have done well enough to sustain faster growth, instead of creating inflation and imbalances that could jeopardize public support for his plans to invest at least another $3 trillion in roads, clean energy, children and schools.

The report suggested that not enough people are seeking work, a possible problem for a president who is hoping that his rescue package will put the country back at full employment by 2022. While Biden viewed the jobs figures as a full-speed-ahead argument for his agenda, several economists were urging a degree of caution to see whether more Americans will start looking for jobs after the steep losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Republicans, for their part, found ways to turn the jobs report into an argument against Biden's plans to finance more government programs through tax increases on the wealthy and corporations. Their concern is that generous unemployment benefits have prevented people from accepting jobs and that the government aid — much of it still forthcoming — will fuel inflation.

Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways & Means Committee, said Biden should divert more of the COVID-19 relief money to infrastructure.

“If we want to help families build their lives and rebuild the U.S. economy for the long term, it’s time for the emergency spending and the endless government checks to end," Brady told Fox Business.