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GOP lawmaker picks a losing fight over Biden’s jobs record

When Republican members of Congress try to argue that 3.9% unemployment reflects poorly on President Biden, there's a problem.


Every month, the story unfolds in roughly the same way. New job numbers come out; people are impressed by the resiliency of the U.S. economy; the Biden White House celebrates the data; and Republicans respond to the developments by pretending not to notice them.

The motivation for their silence is obvious: GOP leaders don’t want to be seen criticizing good news, but they also don’t want to acknowledge encouraging economic figures that cast the Democratic incumbent in a positive light. So, they remain silent and hope that no one notices.

On Wednesday, however, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler broached the subject his party’s leaders tend to ignore. In remarks delivered on the House floor, the Pennsylvania Republican began by arguing that the U.S. economy created just 1,500 jobs in October.

That wasn’t even close to being true: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ last report, the economy created 150,000 jobs in October. The GOP congressman left off two zeroes, which in this instance, made a rather dramatic difference.

But perhaps that was just a simple mistake. Maybe Reschenthaler misread the remarks prepared by his staff. Even more notable were his comments about the unemployment rate: “The unemployment rate rose to 3.9% in October.”

While it’s true that the jobless rate inched higher, from 3.8% to 3.9%, if the Republican congressman is looking for things to criticize President Joe Biden about, I'd recommend looking elsewhere.

Look, fair-minded observers can have a credible debate over who deserves credit for the strength of the American job market, but when members of Congress suggest there’s something unfortunate about a 3.9% unemployment rate, there’s a problem.

How many times, across the entirety of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, did the unemployment rate fall below 4%? Literally zero times. Economists quibble over the precise meaning of full employment, but for practical purposes, when the jobless rate is below 4%, it doesn’t get much better.

When Biden took office in January 2021, unemployment stood at 6.3%. By the end of 2021, it was 3.9%. In the nearly two years that followed, the jobless rate has not climbed above 4%.

Or put another way, 3.9% unemployment, in historical terms, is kind of amazing.

Meanwhile, we’ve seen roughly 2.39 million jobs created so far this year, which is exceptional, and the U.S. economy has created roughly 14.4 million jobs since January 2021 — which is more than double the combined total of Donald Trump’s first three years.

Guy Reschenthaler apparently sees this as an area of vulnerability for Biden. Reality suggests otherwise.