Psaki Dodges On Whether Unemployment Benefits Are Slowing COVID Recovery

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on unemployment benefits. [Screenshot/WaPo]

Anders Hagstrom White House Correspondent
Font Size:

White House Press Secretary declined to say whether the Biden administration’s additional unemployment benefits are slowing down the return of the workforce Friday, saying it is “a really difficult thing to analyze.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill have argued that ramped-up benefits are incentivizing some Americans to stay home rather than return to work. The White House and President Joe Biden denied the connection following a weak jobs report in April, but the denial appears to have softened after Friday’s May jobs report once again fell short of predictions. (RELATED: April Job Growth Was Far Short Of Expectations. Here’s Why Hiring Slowed)

“Does the president believe these unemployment benefits are playing a role here?” a reporter asked.

“Again, I think that’s a really difficult thing to analyze, given we have created a historic number of jobs in the last four months,” Psakis responded. “The UI benefits haven’t even been pulled back in any state.

Psaki went on to say that governors who choose not to accept the enhanced benefits in their states have every right to do so, but clarified that no state’s rejection has yet gone into effect.

“We understand there’s politics at play here, that’s ok. Every governor is going to make their own decision,” Psaki said.


Biden had denied a connection between UI benefits and slow employment growth earlier in May.

“I know there’s been a lot of discussion since Friday’s report that people are being paid to stay home rather than go to work,” Biden said at the time. “Well, we don’t see much evidence of that.”

“As my dad used to say, ‘A job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity, your place in the community, being able to look your kid in the eye and say, ‘everything is going to be okay,’” he said.

“I think the people who claim Americans won’t work, even if they find a good and fair opportunity, underestimate the American people. So we will insist that the law is followed with respect to benefits but we are not going to turn our backs on our fellow Americans.”