Analysts expected Friday's April jobs report to "deliver the strongest showing since August," projecting that the U.S. economy added as many as a million jobs last month.
So when the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced Friday morning that the economy added just 266,000 jobs in April, experts and reporters scrambled to decipher and explain the massively underwhelming figures.
"If Biden intends to take this economic crisis seriously, he will include a $10 trillion investment over the next decade into the American Jobs Plan to end the unemployment crisis and put millions of people to work in good, union jobs."
--Ellen Sciales, Sunrise Movement
But progressives argued that the disappointing report makes at least one thing clear: Much more stimulus is needed to repair the damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic and rebuild for a sustainable, more equitable future.
"It is time for [President Joe] Biden to pull us out of this economic spiral," Ellen Sciales, press secretary for the youth-led Sunrise Movement, said in a statement Friday. "Jobs are not going to magically come back. We need action now."
Sunrise is specifically calling on the president to dramatically expand the scope of his American Jobs Plan by bringing it into line with the goals of the THRIVE Act, legislation introduced last week by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). That bill proposes spending $10 trillion over the next 10 years to create millions of jobs, build out the nation's renewable energy infrastructure, and transform U.S. care institutions.
Sciales said that "if Biden intends to take this economic crisis seriously, he will include a $10 trillion investment over the next decade into the American Jobs Plan to end the unemployment crisis and put millions of people to work in good, union jobs stopping the climate crisis."
Biden "must" include Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Markey's Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) in the package and "call on Congress to swiftly pass it, creating good jobs for 1.5 million people across the country, while helping them put food on the table, revitalize their communities, and boost our economy," Sciales continued. "Millions of people are out of work, and the unemployment rate is rising. The real risk isn't doing too much--it's doing too little."
\u201cBiden must include @EdMarkey and @AOC's Civilian Climate Corps in the American Jobs Plan. This would create good jobs for 1.5mill people, while helping them revitalize their communities and boost our economy. We're in crisis. The risk isn\u2019t doing too much \u2013 it\u2019s doing too little.\u201d— Ellen Sciales (@Ellen Sciales) 1620403412
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, echoed that message in a tweet Friday, declaring, "We need the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan to go big and bold, rebuilding our economy and helping lift up our communities."
"There's just no question about it," Jayapal added.
According to the new BLS report, the official unemployment rate ticked up slightly in April to 6.1% and the U.S. economy remains 8.2 million jobs short of the pre-pandemic level--figures that Democratic lawmakers cited as further evidence of the need for additional investment.
"Progress is being made, but it is clear that we have a long way to go before our economy is back on solid ground," said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), chair of the Joint Economic Committee, said in a statement . "While the American Rescue Plan provided much needed emergency relief for the American people, big, bold action is required to recover."
Calls for robust child care spending in the next economic recovery package were also bolstered by the new report, which found that the number of women employed or looking for work declined by 64,000 in April.
"Today's jobs report is a stark reminder of what American families know all too well: child care is infrastructure," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). "If we want moms and dads to go back to work as this pandemic subsides, we need to provide them with the child care they need."
"Compared to February 2020, there are nearly two million fewer women in the labor force," Warren added. "That's catastrophic for the labor force and it's a crisis for women's long-term economic security--endangering their pay, their promotions, and their chance at productive and fulfilling careers. I'm calling for a $700 billion investment in our child care infrastructure because that's the number we need to make affordable, high-quality child care a reality."
Biden administration officials, the president himself, progressive lawmakers, and policy analysts were quick to reject the notion that federally enhanced unemployment benefits are dissuading people from rejoining the workforce--a long-standing right-wing narrative that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and congressional Republicans eagerly deployed after the BLS report dropped.
During a press briefing on Friday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that "if it were really the extra benefits that were holding back hiring, you'd expect to see" states and sectors with high wage replacement rates for unemployment benefits having more difficulty adding jobs.
"In fact, what you see is the exact opposite," said Yellen.
"We need to end starvation wages in America," Sanders added. "If $300 a week is preventing employers from hiring low-wage workers there's a simple solution: Raise your wages. Pay decent benefits."