White House defends economic plan and progress
White House economic officials said data suggests their strategy is working
The Biden administration on Tuesday defended its economic plan following a weak April employment report and a fragile recovery.
In a memo addressed to White House senior staff, National Economic Council director Brian Deese and Council of Economic Advisers chair Cecilia Rouse listed data showing their strategy was "working", including a downward trend in initial unemployment insurance claims and a robust first quarter GDP estimate.
However, the pair also cautioned that it would take time for the economy to transition from pandemic lockdowns to consistent growth.
"Reawakening dormant sectors of the economy has led to temporary imbalances between supply and demand, in addition to specific and limited supply chain bottlenecks," the memo read. "But it is an encouraging sign that consumers are returning to sectors of the economy that retreated dramatically in the recession—restaurants, hotels, rental cars, airlines, and many others."
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The White House also addressed employment concerns as governors from many states announce the end of the $300 federal unemployment bump as businesses struggle to find workers.
As of Tuesday, 22 states had decided to end their participation in the federal unemployment insurance assistance program. The leaders in many states say it has served as a deterrent for reemployment.
The White House said on Tuesday that available data suggests the largest barrier for returning to work is COVID-19.
"As we get the majority of working age adults fully vaccinated, we anticipate companies that provide fair wages and safe work environments will find Americans eager to work," Deese and Rouse said. "In some cases, employers will raise wages to attract workers. This is a positive development, particularly for lower wage workers who have seen little wage growth over the past decades."
Biden has unveiled two trillion-dollar spending packages that are being worked on in Congress, including a revamp of the nation’s infrastructure.
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There are several headwinds threatening an economic recovery even as more Americans become fully vaccinated and the government begins to lift mask requirements.
Beyond the widely reported labor shortage, consumer prices, including the price of food and gasoline, are on the rise – increasing more than 4% in April. Contributing to the increase are shortages along the supply chain in certain industries, including fuel after a ransomware attack recently shut down a major East Coast supplier.
Low inventory in the housing market has also pushed prices higher. The median existing home sale price in March rose 17.2% year over year to a historic high of $329,100, according to the National Association of Realtors. Double-digit gains were experienced in all regions of the U.S.
The U.S. economic, which added 266,000 jobs in April, is still more than 8 million jobs below pre-pandemic levels. The unemployment rate as of April was 6.1%.