Democrats and GOP Blame Each Other for Weak Job Market: Who’s Right?

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Friday’s April Employment Situation Report from the Department of Labor contained some surprises; the headline numbers were staggering and handily beat economists’ expectations. Last month, the United States economy created 288,000 jobs, pushing the unemployment rate down 0.4 percentage points to 6.3 percent, the lowest in more than five years. The last time U.S. employers added more jobs was in January 2012. But still, economists maintained that April’s weighty jobs growth was largely result of the labor market catching up from the winter slowdown, which kept hiring numbers extremely low in December, weak in February, and undeniably sluggish in March. However, the fact remains that a large portion of the downtick in the jobless rate came from a sizable decrease in the labor force, meaning workers are still discouraged and unable to find employment. And that aspect of the jobs report was by no means surprising; a disheartened labor force and a record low labor force participation rate has characterized this recovery and is evidence that recovery has not yet reached all Americans.

What is also unsurprising is that last week’s report on April’s employment gains prepared by the Department of Labor provided an opportunity for Republicans in Congress and President Barack Obama to trade criticisms of each other’s efforts to pen legislation that would help the U.S. economy create jobs.

April’s job gains, while solid, were not enough for Speaker of the House John Boehner. “Earlier this week, we learned that economic growth largely stalled at the start of the year,” he began a statement released just after last Friday’s jobs report, referring to the meager 0.1 percent the United States gross domestic product grew in the first three months of this year. “And while it’s welcome news that more of our friends and neighbors found work in the past month, this report also indicates more than 800,000 Americans left the workforce last month, which is troubling. We need more robust economic growth if we’re going to help the millions who remain unemployed get back on their feet.” He then made a campaign pitch: “House Republicans have made the people’s priorities our priorities, passing jobs bill after jobs bill to expand opportunity and economic security for middle-class families. President Obama ought to call on his Democratic-led Senate to take up the stacks of House-passed jobs measures so we can get this economy moving again.”

The White House, in its own post-jobs report statement, hit similar notes. Obama called employment growth “solid,” pinpointing that April was the fiftieth consecutive month in which businesses added jobs. But he also argued that “more can and should be done to support the recovery.” As the statement highlighted, the president has made it his goal to “expand economic opportunity” by using the executive order. He has also pushed “Congress for additional investments in infrastructure, education and research, an increase in the minimum wage, and a reinstatement of extended unemployment insurance benefits.” Late December’s expiration of the emergency program resulted in the loss of jobless benefits for more than one million Americans. And, according to the president, cost more than 80,000 jobs so far this year.

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