US President Joe Biden last Friday hailed a jobs report that showed 517,000 jobs were created in January and unemployment fell to 3.4%, its lowest rate in 54 years, as evidence that his economic plan is strengthening the U.S. economy.
In remarks at the White House, Biden said inflation continues to come down and real wages are going up, but there was more work to do to lower prices for Americans.
Biden dismissed a reporter's question as to whether he was responsible for the high rate of inflation, saying it was high when he took office two years ago.
The journalist asked, "Do you take any blame for inflation, Mr. President?"
"Do I take any blame for inflation? No," the president replied.
The reporter asked, "Why not?"
"Because it was already there when I got here, man. Remember what the economy was like when I got here? Jobs were hemorrhaging, inflation was rising. We weren’t manufacturing a damn thing here. We were in real economic difficulty. That’s why I don’t. Thank you," Biden answered, then left the podium with reporters continuing to shout questions at him.
Throughout his time in office, rising consumer prices have been one of the more glaring political vulnerabilities for Biden. The Fed raised interest rates last Wednesday for an eighth consecutive time in a year in an effort to cool rapid inflation.
When Biden took office in January 2021, the U.S. economy was struggling with elevated joblessness from the COVID-19 pandemic but inflation statistics did not spike until his presidency had already begun.
The consumer price index rose 6.5% in 2022, compared to an annual rate around 1.4% when Biden took office. Economists attribute some of the causes for the rise in prices to shortages and dislocations that predated his presidency.
Friday's jobs report was good news for workers, but it likely points to continued interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve to slow an unexpectedly strong labor market seen as contributing to high inflation.
And economic uncertainty is far from gone as Republicans threaten not to raise the debt limit later this year, a move that economists say would shatter global financial confidence and plunge the nation into recession.