WILMINGTON, Del. – President-elect Joe Biden addressed the nation Friday about the November jobs report that shows American companies are hiring at a slower pace as COVID-19 cases spike across the country.
The report released by the Department of Labor Friday shows that the unemployment rate fell slightly to a still-high 6.7%. However, the gain of 245,000 jobs last month was the fewest added since the spring, when the pandemic and widespread quarantines forced mass layoffs.
Biden started his remarks by calling the jobs report “grim.” He said it showed an economy that’s stalling and we’re in one of the worst economic job crises in modern history. However, he said it doesn’t have to stay that way.
“If we act now, now I mean, now, we begin to regain momentum and start to build back a better future,” said Biden. “There’s no time to lose. Millions of people have lost their jobs or had their hours slashed. They’ve lost their health insurance or are in danger of losing their health insurance.”
Biden said it’s deeply troubling that last month’s drop in unemployment was driven by people who are dropping out of the job market.
“They’ve lost hope of finding a job or they’ve taken full-time caregiving responsibilities as child centers remain closed and their children learn remotely,” he said.
Biden listed many sobering statistics that show how much Americans need relief during this crisis.
“One in every six renters is behind in rent. One in every four small businesses can’t keep their doors open. And there’s a growing gap in Black and Latino unemployment, and the gab remains much too large,” said Biden.
As he doesn’t take office until the end of January, Biden is calling on President Donald Trump and the current Congress to act in the interest of the American people now.
“If Congress and President Trump fail to act by the end of December, 12 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits they rely on,” said Biden. “Merry Christmas. The unemployment benefits allowing them to keep food on the table, to keep the lights on, and the heat on, pay their bills.”
If lawmakers don’t act, Biden pointed out that emergency paid leave will end, the moratorium on evictions will expire, and states will lose the vital tools they need to pay for COVID-19 testing and public health.
“If we don’t act now, the future will be very bleak,” said Biden.
Biden did say he was encouraged by the bipartisan $908 billion relief plan that was proposed this week, but said more aid will be needed throughout 2021 in order to get the country back on track. The latest relief plan doesn’t include $1,200 stimulus checks for Americans, but Biden said he’s not convinced it won’t be part of the bill in the end and added that it’s “still in play.”
Biden also called for funding for COVID-19 vaccines and testing as the U.S. finds itself in its most perilous point in the COVID-19 pandemic to date.
“We need to ramp up testing to allow our schools and businesses to operate safely. The sooner we pass the funding, the sooner we turn the corner on COVID-19,” said Biden.
On Thursday, Johns Hopkins said that the U.S. reported record numbers of new COVID-19 deaths and infections. Since Halloween, more than 5 million Americans have contracted COVID-19 — a number that represents about 36% of all cases recorded since the pandemic began.
Biden's remarks come days after he announced his picks for key economic positions in his incoming administration. Among them is former Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen, who Biden has tapped to run the Treasury Department. Yellen, a Keynesian economist who is not afraid to allow the government to intervene in the free market, will be tasked with working with Congress to get stimulus packages passed.
Biden is also expected to announce his picks for key public health positions in the coming days. On Thursday, Biden said in an interview with CNN that he has asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to remain in his role as the head of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases and asked him to be a chief medical adviser to his White House.
At the end of his remarks, Biden took some questions from reporters. One asked for Biden’s reaction to those saying his Cabinet picks so far haven’t been diverse enough. He responded by saying his cabinet will be the “single most diverse cabinet” in U.S. history.