Biden Hails US Jobs Data in Latest Bid to Tout Economic Agenda

President Joe Biden said the US has the strongest economy in the world, seizing on a report showing payrolls rose by more than forecast in August even as wage growth cools and the economy faces other headwinds.

(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden said the US has the strongest economy in the world, seizing on a report showing payrolls rose by more than forecast in August even as wage growth cools and the economy faces other headwinds.

“America’s now in the strongest job-creating periods in our history,” Biden said from the White House Rose Garden, seeking a political boost after months of struggling to sell voters on his stewardship of the economy and drawing a contrast with his predecessor and likely 2024 challenger, Republican front runner Donald Trump. 

“We’ve added 13.5 million jobs since I took office. Around 800,000 of them manufacturing jobs. We’ve created more jobs in two years than any president created in a four-year term,” said Biden. “My predecessor is one of only two presidents in history who entered his presidency and left with fewer jobs than when he entered.”

Friday’s job report, though, offered a mixed package, showing US hiring ticking up but wage growth slowing and a higher unemployment rate. The White House event was the latest bid from Biden to tout his economic agenda, dubbed Bidenomics, ahead of next year’s election with polls showing voters give his handling of the economy poor marks.

Biden traveled the US this summer to highlight the impact of his policies on local communities but that pitch has largely fallen flat with voters still worried about lingering inflation and the threat of a softening jobs market. Biden on Friday said inflation over the last three months is closer to where it was before the Covid-19 pandemic and that incomes were higher.

August data showed US hiring picking up, with the number of nonfarm jobs rising 187,000 and topping forecasts. The figure includes a drop of 54,000 in the film and trucking industries, with the Hollywood writers’ strike and the bankruptcy of Yellow Corp., weighing on those numbers.

The labor market has raised hopes the nation may avert a recession at least in the near term. Hiring and incomes have been firm enough to bolster consumer spending. Still, Friday’s report offered fresh signs that hiring has not been as strong as previously reported. June and July payroll gains were revised lower by 110,000, following data last week.

Unemployment rose to 3.8%, reflecting growing labor market participation. That in turn could help soften wage pressures. Average hourly earnings were up 0.2% from July, the smallest increase since early last year, and up 4.3% from a year earlier.

Friday’s data is the last jobs report the Federal Reserve will see before its policy meeting this month. Policymakers are expected to keep rates steady but Chairman Jerome Powell has signaled interest rates could rise further should the economy and inflation fail to cool.

The economy remains a vulnerability for Biden in polls despite positive economic data in recent months, as recent data on a manufacturing boom, job gains, strong gross domestic product growth and easing inflation fail to resonate with voters.

At last week’s first Republican presidential debate, candidates on the stage lambasted Biden’s policies on the economy and vowed to undo them if elected.

Biden also faces fresh economic concerns with the United Auto Workers threatening a potential strike if they cannot reach a new agreement with Detroit’s legacy automakers. Last week, the union said its rank-and-file members had voted to authorize a strike against General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis NV, maker of the Jeep and Chrysler brands, if a deal is not reached by a Sept. 14 deadline. 

Biden has said he is concerned about the prospect of a strike, urging both sides to reach a “fair” agreement.

The president also faces the risk of a government shutdown. Leaders in both parties on Capitol Hill say a stopgap spending bill will be necessary to avoid a partial shutdown after the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, but conservative House Republicans are demanding spending cuts and restrictions on funding for Ukraine in exchange.

–With assistance from Jenny Leonard and Michelle Jamrisko.

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