White House Says Republican Governors Are Pulling Jobless Benefits Too Soon

The White House pushed back against Republican governors curbing the extra jobless benefits for out-of-work Americans extended in President Joe Biden’s March pandemic-relief package.

“There will come a day when we do not need these additional supports. There’s no question, these were designed to get us to the end of the pandemic. But we’re not there yet,” Cecilia Rouse, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, said at a Bloomberg conference Thursday.

The April jobs report showed only 266,000 jobs were added to payrolls were added, compared to expectations for 1 million. Some economists and state governors blamed the $300 a week supplemental unemployment insurance payments for keeping workers at home. About 20 states have nixed the extra benefit, which the federal government offered until early September.

White House Says Republican Governors Are Pulling Jobless Benefits Too Soon

Rouse said the April employment underperformance more likely reflected a timing issue with regard to when the data were collected. Later in April, additional jobs were created, and Covid vaccinations accelerated, she said. She also pointed to the reality of a beleaguered workforce

“People have been out of work for a year -- we’re not automatons, we’re not just robots you switch back on,” Rouse said. She argued that the issue will get worked out over the coming months. “We will get back to a full recovery and by the end of the year we will be in really good shape.”

Risk Balance

The White House economist highlighted that back when the $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief bill was proposed in January, “this economy was still largely at a standstill.” Even now, payrolls remain more than 8 million lower than the level before the pandemic struck.

Rouse also addressed concerns about inflation stemming from the Covid-19 rescue package and the more than $4 trillion in longer-term spending that Biden has proposed -- saying that the risk of doing too little was still greater than doing too much.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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