Republicans 'speechless' as US unemployment hits its lowest rate in over half a century: political writer

Republicans 'speechless' as US unemployment hits its lowest rate in over half a century: political writer

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the United States’ unemployment rate fell to 3.6% in March — meaning the U.S. is seeing its lowest unemployment rate in over half a century. Many Republicans have avoided talking about unemployment, focusing instead on inflation. And journalist Steve Benen, in an opinion column for Rachel Maddow’s blog on MSNBC.com, stresses that many Republicans are ignoring the big picture when they talk about the U.S. economy.

One Republican who has talked about unemployment recently, Benen notes, is Rep. Lisa McClain — who, at a Donald Trump rally in Michigan in early April, made the false claim that U.S. unemployment has reached a “40-year high” under President Joe Biden. Benen observes, “Even by contemporary standards, this was ridiculous. In January 2021, when President Joe Biden was inaugurated, the unemployment rate was 6.4%. Now, it’s 3.6%. This is one of the lowest jobless rates of the last half-century — unemployment didn’t reach 3.6% at any point throughout the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s — and at no point since the government started keeping track has the rate improved this much over such a short period of time. In other words, the first-year GOP congresswoman got reality backwards.”

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. saw unemployment increase in 2020. But unemployment decreased in 2021 as more Americans were vaccinated for COVID-19 and pandemic restrictions were eased.

“It’s possible that McClain struggled to tell the truth because her party’s leadership didn’t offer members much in the way of direction on the issue,” Benen explains. “After all, the day before the Michigan lawmaker spoke, the public saw the latest evidence of a job market on an amazing hot streak: The U.S. economy added 431,000 jobs in March, while the unemployment rate fell to 3.6%.”

Liberal economist Paul Krugman, in his New York Times column and his Twitter threads, has been stressing that although inflation remains a problem, the U.S. economy is generally performing well in the Biden era — and Krugman has argued that President Joe Biden, without glossing over inflation, needs to do a better job selling what is mostly good economic news.

Benen, in his Maddow Blog column, notes, “Our economy has now seen 11 straight months of jobs gains above 400,000 for the first time on record. The economy is far from perfect — inflation remains on consumers’ minds for a reason — but for those rooting for Americans getting back to work, the news is worth celebrating. It was against this backdrop that House and Senate Republican leaders said.... nothing.”

The Maddow Blog columnist observes that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy “ignored the economic news altogether.”

“No press releases, no tweets and no public comments,” Benen comments. “They literally found themselves speechless…. When the unemployment rate reached 3.6% in the last administration, for example, McCarthy was eager to celebrate. Does he care to explain why he has so little to say now?”

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