Today, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), Chairman of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), released the following statement after the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that nonfarm payroll employment increased by 199,000 in December and the unemployment rate declined to 3.9%, a new pandemic-era low. The unemployment rate was 7.1% for Black workers, 4.9% for Hispanic workers and 3.8% for Asian workers.
“Today’s payroll numbers, while not as strong for the month of December as we were hoping for, underscore the monumental success of the Biden administration over this past year in getting the economy back on track.
“The latest data show the unemployment rate dropped to 3.9%—a universe away from the nearly 15% it reached in 2020 and a new pandemic-era low—far outpacing the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee’s majority expectations, which forecast unemployment would fall to just 4.2% by the end of the 2021. Job growth under President Biden has averaged 565,000 per month for a total of 6.2 million jobs since he took office, and we have recovered 84% of the jobs lost during the worst of pandemic. We have recovered at least 90% of jobs lost during the pandemic in construction, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, financial services, and professional and business services. At the current pace of hiring, we are more than on track to reach pre-pandemic employment levels by the end of this year.
“The strength of the labor market rebound—and the overall robustness of the economic recovery—is a testament to strong leadership in the White House and the pro-growth economic policies and scaled up testing and vaccination efforts advanced by this administration. Thanks to President Biden’s pandemic response, children have access to the vaccine and more than 70% of American adults are now fully vaccinated—up from less than 1% when the President took office—providing crucial protection against the effects of Omicron. Looking ahead, Omicron is likely to have a dampening effect on hiring that will show up in the next jobs report, another reminder that our economic recovery hinges on controlling the pandemic. We must redouble our efforts to increase testing and vaccination rates to protect the most vulnerable among us and ensure continued economic progress.
“While we continue to see the effects of the pandemic on our chronically underfunded infrastructure, action by Congress and Biden Administration and particularly strong job gains across the industries that are integral to addressing these supply chain challenges are mitigating bottlenecks. Transportation and warehousing are now almost 220,000 jobs above pre-pandemic levels, including especially strong gains in trucking, which has now recovered over 98% of jobs lost during the pandemic. Since the peak of the pandemic, manufacturing has now recovered 84% of the jobs lost and construction has now recovered 92%.
“The economic policies that have provided such a lifeline to families throughout the worst of the pandemic, and which have enabled us to reach recovery milestones in record time, remain critical to addressing the long-term structural challenges that made the United States so vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic. Decades of stagnant wages and the rising costs of necessities like childcare, healthcare and housing have strained household budgets, particularly for lower- and middle-income families. Combined with tax policies that have allowed the wealthy and corporations to shirk paying their fair share, economic inequality has surged and constricted the pathways to economic growth and mobility.
“Our nation is strongest when we invest in the workers and families that are the foundation of our economy. As we look ahead to 2022, Congress must pass the Build Back Better Act and remain steadfast in our commitment to advance policies that promote shared prosperity and sustained growth.”