President Joe Biden attempted to put a happy gloss on today's disappointing jobs report, touting the overall employment gains during his administration and stressing that the inflationary pressures Americans are currently experiencing are definitely not his fault.
The U.S. economy added 210,000 jobs in November, with much of that growth occurring in the warehousing, transportation, construction, and manufacturing sectors, according to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Jobs in retail declined, however. Overall, the unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage points to 4.2 percent.
The top-line numbers in the report are much lower than the 575,000 new jobs economists had been predicting. The Wall Street Journal reports that November's numbers represent the lowest rate of job growth since last December and are significantly below the 546,000 jobs added in October.
This month's jobs numbers could be revised upward, as past jobs reports have been. The president was quick to claim the job growth that did occur as a victory.
"This year we can reflect on an extraordinary bit of progress. Our economy is markedly stronger than it was a year ago, and today the incredible news that our unemployment rate has fallen to 4.2 percent," said Biden at a White House press conference. "It's a sign we're on the right track."
In addition to jobs, the president said that progress on persistent supply chain issues was being made, citing the statistic that the number of containers sitting for more than eight days at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach was down 40 percent over the past month.
"They're getting off the docks, into trains, into trucks, into vehicles, to get them to store shelves," said Biden.
The actual picture at those ports is a bit more nuanced. While the number of containers staying more than eight days is falling, FreightWaves, a logistics publication, notes that the number of containers stuck at the Port of Los Angeles for more than 13 days has increased.
A Wednesday article from FreightWaves also notes that there's been no decline in the number of container ships waiting to unload at those Southern California ports. Numbers cited by port and Biden administration officials about the falling number of stalled ships are actually just a product of more ships waiting far enough away from ports where they're not counted by some measurements, the article explains.
As to the decades-high 6 percent inflation Americans are experiencing, Biden stressed that other countries are also facing higher prices because of the pandemic and that he was doing everything he could to bring prices down. The president noted his decision to release 50 million barrels of oil from the country's strategic reserves last month, which he said was responsible for falling wholesale gas prices.
He said he would also have the Federal Trade Commission launch investigations to make sure that those wholesale prices are passed on to Americans at the pump.
Some commenters were a little less sanguine about the new jobs numbers than Biden.
Sean Higgins, a research fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said the reported job growth was "a gloomy sign that the economy is being battered by the supply chain crisis and the Biden administration's attempt to force workers to get vaccinations."
News of the spreading omicron variant has seen stocks tumble in recent days. At the press conference today, Biden said that his administration would be rolling out a new campaign to get the vaccinated booster shots and setting up new family vaccination clinics.
When asked by a reporter if his administration would impose a vaccine requirement for domestic air travel, Biden didn't rule it out but said he thought the current requirement that interstate train and plane travelers wear masks was sufficient.
Rent Free is a weekly newsletter from Christian Britschgi on urbanism and the fight for less regulation, more housing, more property rights, and more freedom in America's cities.