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Liberals Should Learn From Weak Jobs Report That Incentives Matter

“Experts” predicted 1 million jobs would be created in April. The actual number fell far short, at 266,000. Republicans warned that overly generous COVID-19 relief benefits create a disincentive to work.

The day before this disappointing jobs report, Bloomberg wrote:

In earnings calls and business surveys, executives often blame stimulus checks and generous unemployment benefits for hampering hiring efforts. …

Friday’s employment report, which is projected to show the economy added 1 million jobs in April, should offer new insight into this mismatch and whether it’s deterring growth.

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When the numbers came in, Biden administration officials lacked no shortage of excuses. Some potential workers, they argued, feared going back to work because of COVID-19; many schools had still yet to resume in-school learning, particularly burdensome for single parents; we’re still early in the bounce back from the COVID-19-stricken economy; one month’s worth of numbers does not a story tell; and employers just need to raise wages.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh urged perspective: “Well, you know, under normal circumstances, and certainly we’re not living in normal circumstances, the 266,000 job gain a month is a good number. Unfortunately, we’re still in the midst of a pandemic.”

President Joe Biden rejected the elephant-in-the-room possible explanation for the disappointingly low April job numbers—that the generous provisions in the COVID-19 relief packages, coupled with state and local aid, create a disincentive for people to go back to work. Biden dismissed “loose talk that Americans just don’t want to work. … The data shows that more workers are looking for jobs, and many can’t find them.”