President Joe Biden again pushed back on the theory that increased unemployment benefits passed through the latest round of COVID-19 stimulus was causing a labor shortage, saying instead that other factors like lack of childcare options or lack of high-paying jobs were to blame.
During remarks at the White House on Monday, Biden pointed out that it's not possible for people receiving unemployment to continue collecting benefits while also turning down a suitable job.
"We’re going to make it clear that anyone collecting unemployment who is offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits,” Biden said. "There a are a few COVID-19-related exceptions...but otherwise, that's the law."
Biden also laid out a few actions his administration was taking Monday to further spur job growth across the country: He said the White House was opening a portal so local and state governments could apply for federal stimulus funds, said that the first round of checks were being sent out for small business restaurant and bar owners who applied for stimulus last week and said that his administration would be sending funds to states so that childcare centers could reopen.
Biden said that those actions, combined with more high-paying jobs from businesses seeking workers, would lead to higher unemployment numbers next month.
"We need to realized that people will come back to work if they're paid a decent wage," Biden said.
Biden’s address came days after a jobs report from April showed that the U.S. hired about 266,000 people — far fewer that analysts had projected.
In remarks delivered Friday, Biden said the disappointing report underscored the importance of the provisions that were passed in the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package passed in March.
He noted that the bill was designed to get the U.S. back on track economically within a year, "not over the course of 60 days." He also criticized analysts who claim extended federal unemployment benefits were stifling the economy and leading to a labor shortage, noting that the April report showed that there were 8 million jobs available to workers in April, compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Biden’s address will also come as one of the country’s largest gasoline pipelines has been shut down in a cyberattack. Most of the Colonial Pipeline — the system responsible for transporting 45% of the gasoline used on the East Coast — remains offline as of Monday morning.
The pipeline shutdown has led to a rise in gasoline futures, meaning gas prices could increase if the pipeline remains down for an extended period of time.