President Joe Biden held a White House event on Friday to sign an executive order on abortion access, but before getting to the topic at hand, the Democrat wanted to focus some attention on an unrelated matter: the latest good news on job creation. From Biden’s remarks:
“Today, the Labor Department reported that we added 372,000 jobs last month — 372,000. Here’s why it’s important: Our private sector has now have recovered all the jobs lost during the pandemic and added jobs on top of that. We have more Americans working today in the private sector than any day under my predecessor, more today than any time in American history — today. In the second quarter of this year, we created more jobs than any quarter under any of my predecessors in nearly 40 years before the pandemic.”
It was tough to blame the president for wanting to highlight the good news. For one thing, as his approval rating sinks, it stands to reason that the White House would want to tout good news about such an important issue. For another, much of the public probably doesn’t realize that the job market has soared with unexpected and unpredicted strength under Biden, and the unemployment rate is lower now than at any point throughout the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s.
What’s more, as we discussed last week, the economy has created 2.63 million jobs so far in 2022, and the year is only half-over. By any fair measure, that’s an extraordinary total, more in line with what we’d expect to see in a full year. In fact, more jobs have been created in the last six months than in any full year of Donald Trump’s term.
It was against this backdrop that House and Senate Republican leaders said ... nothing. The GOP has largely decided to pretend not to notice job growth at all.
Circling back to our recent coverage, it seemed at least possible leading Republican officials would argue that Democrats don’t deserve credit for the economic recovery. Or perhaps they’d argue that robust job growth was inevitable after the 2020 recession. Maybe they’d even try to say that Trump was somehow responsible for creating economic conditions he had nothing to do with.
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy instead ignored the economic news altogether: No press releases, no tweets, and no public comments. They literally found themselves speechless — just like last month and the month before that and the month before that.
As regular readers may recall, it was more than a year ago when we saw the worst month for job growth since Biden’s inauguration: In April 2021, the economy created 269,000 jobs. Under normal circumstances, that would’ve constituted a great total, but with the country still climbing out of its pandemic-driven hole, the April 2021 report was a disappointment.
Republicans wasted no time in pouncing on the data, blaming Democrats for the shortfall. McCarthy released this press statement soon after the data was released: “Today’s disappointing jobs report confirms once again that President Biden’s tax-and-spend policies are bad for American workers, families, and small businesses.... Experts are calling this jobs report the ‘worst miss in 23 years’, and it was a direct result of President Biden’s counterproductive policies. So President Biden is not fixing a crisis, but creating new ones.”
In the days that followed, the House GOP leader continued to make a direct connection between the White House’s economic agenda and the U.S. job market. A week after April numbers were released, McCarthy again argued, “President Biden and Democrats will make excuses for this abysmal reality, but the truth is their own massive spending agenda created this problem.”
It wasn’t just McCarthy. The Republican National Committee connected Biden’s policies and job growth over and over and over again. McConnell’s Senate website blamed “persistent unemployment” on Democrats.
There was one important problem with this strategy: It was apparently based on the idea that the U.S. job market would continue to fall short for the indefinite future.
It did the opposite: The economy created over 6.7 million jobs in 2021, which was a record high that surpassed the total number of jobs created across each of Trump’s first three years in office combined. All told, we’re now up to over 9.37 million jobs since January 2021 — a total that seemed impossible as last year got underway.
The political problem for Republicans is obvious: If a discouraging monthly jobs report is proof that the Democratic economic agenda is a failure, then several months’ worth of encouraging monthly jobs reports is necessarily evidence that the Democratic economic agenda is a success.
The more GOP leaders say Biden is directly responsible for the nation’s economic conditions, the easier it is for the Democratic White House to take credit when those conditions look great.
It’s okay for Republicans to applaud good news for their own country. When the unemployment rate reached 3.6 percent in the last administration, for example, McCarthy was eager to celebrate. Does he care to explain why he has so little to say now?
Postscript: It’s important to note for context that the Republican National Committee did issue a press statement on Friday morning acknowledging the existence of the latest monthly jobs report. It credited “Republican-led states” for the good employment data.