President Joe Biden has repeatedly touted the country’s “job recovery” since he took office, even declaring earlier this week that his administration’s efforts “created the greatest job recovery in American history.”
Economists and fact checkers, however, are unconvinced that Biden played much of a role in the numbers.
The U.S. plummeted into a recession in March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a swiftness not seen since the Great Depression, the Congressional Research Service later found. Since then, restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic have continued to loosen — allowing Americans to head back to jobs they essentially already have. For the White House, this “job recovery” has been a talking point, and an example of success.
In March, Politifact rated a similar Biden comment — in which he declared that the economy created “more jobs in one year than ever before in the history of the United States of America” — as “half-true.” The fact-check noted that Biden “has a point,” but continued on to explain how the president’s declaration lacked key context.
“… As the nation’s population has grown, so has the number of jobs. Using the annual percentage increase is a better way to make comparisons across the 80-plus years for which data is available. Using that metric, 2021 put up strong numbers but did not set an all-time record,” Politifact wrote, adding that comparing numbers to pre-pandemic levels, taking into account the timing and noting that other factors outside of a presidency play key roles.
Stephen Pociask, an economist expert at The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, and Brian Riedl, a senior fellow focused in part on economic policy at the Manhattan Institute, were even more critical of Biden’s claims. Both argued to the Daily Caller that the job recovery simply came about due to COVID-19 restrictions being lifted.
“COVID restrictions were lifted. That’s it!” Riedl said.
“President Biden is taking credit for jobs that were going to come back either way, regardless of any presidential policy, simply because the pandemic re-opened … He’s taking credit for the simple fact that the pandemic ended and people were called back to work, which was going to happen anyway,” he added.
Pociask made a similar point, telling the Caller that he wouldn’t even rate the president’s comment as “half-true.” (RELATED: ‘America Is Back To Work,’ Biden Declares After Mixed November Jobs Report)
“They’re giving him credit for bringing everything back because of COVID … This is completely the result of COVID, the downturn and the upturn,” Pociask said. “The question we should be asking ourselves is what, if anything, he’s done in addition to that, and as I’m looking at the statistics today — and I can say now that everything has opened up, the market is back opened up – why aren’t we at the same level that we were in February of 2020?”
“We had governors — and for awhile, a federal policy — that required that certain businesses be shut down, that only certain capacity could work, so some places like bars and restaurants were out,” Pociask also said. “Concerts were gone. Travel restrictions, you couldn’t get on a cruise. I mean, those aren’t job-creating activities. So if we take those things away and we put them back in, that’s not the credit of anyone, is it? It’s just the credit of the policies that suppressed them and then …. lifted them.”
At one point, Riedl flipped Biden’s “greatest” job recovery declaration, pointing out to the Caller that “never before in history” has the country “lost 22 million jobs in one month, must less recovered them two years later.”
“By that measure, this has been the single largest jobs drop and eventual recovery in American history. The context, however, is: Part of the reason the job drop was bigger is because the population’s bigger,” Riedl said, pointing out an important metric mentioned by Politifact in March.
The U.S. population growth was also mentioned in an Associated Press fact check article published in January 2022. That fact check focused on a nearly two-hour press conference with the president — one of only a few since Biden took office.
“The economy added 6.4 million jobs in 2021, the most on government records dating back to 1939, but part of that is just a natural rebound from what had been the steepest job loss on record in 2020, when 9.4 million jobs were cut,” The AP also pointed out regarding Biden’s claim that the 6 million new jobs created at the time marked “more jobs in one year than any time before.”
Riedl also argued that Biden “did not oversee the entire job increase” — a point that Pociask made as well. (RELATED: ‘A Good Sign’: Fewer People File For Unemployment In States Cutting Federal Bonus, Data Shows)
“We were already on a path, and it just continued,” Riedl told the Caller. “This was a unique situation where I don’t think political credit is something to hand out … It’s one thing to create millions of jobs during an economy that was already at full employment and growing. That’s a challenge. But when 22 million people temporarily are sent home for a pandemic, simply calling everyone back to work is not really the same thing as creating permanent new jobs.”
In May, the U.S. economy added 390,000 jobs in May while the unemployment rate remained at its previous 3.6%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report showed. Biden has focused on job recovery as a reason to celebrate his presidency while shrugging off concerns of a possible recession.
Pociask dove into the BLS reports in explaining his reasoning to the Caller. Ultimately, he declared that Americans simply have to “look at the facts,” saying that “employment is lower today than it was before COVID.”
“That’s a statistical fact, and you can find it in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ numbers on a seasonally adjusted basis,” he said.
“It’s right there. It’s clear to me that … to account for the seasonality, there’s no other way to come to the conclusion that employment, labor force participation, and real hourly earnings is lower today than it was in that February before COVID. It’s as simple as that,” Pociask added.