U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said the economy still has "a ways to go" following April’s jobs report, and claimed Americans aren’t going back to work "because their jobs aren’t there," during an interview on FOX Business’ "Varney & Co."
Employers adding a measly 266,000 new jobs – sharply missing Wall Street's expectations – amid a growing shortage of available workers.
The unemployment rate unexpectedly rose to 6.1% — while it's still well below the April 2020 peak of 14.7%, it's about twice the pre-crisis level, the Labor Department said in its monthly payroll report, released Friday morning. Economists surveyed by Refinitiv expected the report to show that unemployment fell to 5.8% and the economy added 978,000 jobs.
"Under normal circumstances, 266,000 jobs added to our economy would be a great number. Unfortunately, we're not living in normal times. When we look at where we're headed in this country, we're headed in the right direction," Walsh told host Stuart Varney on Friday.
Walsh added that more than 500,000 jobs per month have been added to the economy "over the last three months," compared to the 60,000 per month in the previous three, but "we still have a ways to go."
Although the accelerated vaccine rate, trillions in government stimulus and easing business restrictions seemed to be coming together to support a robust economic recovery, businesses have reported difficulty in onboarding new workers.
A recent Bank of America analyst note estimated that 4.6 million workers exited the labor force during the pandemic – and only half are expected to rejoin by the end of the year. Companies have been quick to blame the sweetened unemployment benefits provided to workers during the pandemic; the $1.9 trillion stimulus package that President Biden signed into law in March boosted unemployment aid by $300 a week through Sept 6, 2021 and included a third $1,400 payment for millions of Americans.
When Varney asked whether unemployment insurance might be one of the reasons because people are "making more money by staying at home," Walsh pushed back saying it has "very little do with unemployment insurance."
"I think that people aren't coming back to work because their job isn't there," he said adding that "unemployment insurance is a temporary fix… But, you know, we're still dealing with a global pandemic."
Walsh went on to say that he supports the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s calls to discontinue the $300 federal weekly unemployment payments.
FOX Business’ Megan Henney contributed to this report