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Unemployment rate remains low, but GOP says Americans still struggling

The U.S. labor market remains strong, but some point to high inflation and credit card debt as indicators of a failing economy.
Unemployment rate remains low, but GOP says Americans still struggling
Posted at 10:44 AM, Mar 08, 2024

The U.S. labor market continued its consistent growth in February as 275,000 jobs were added, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

The unemployment rate has stayed below 4% for 25 consecutive months, the longest such period of low unemployment in more than five decades. 

The largest job gains were in the health care sector, adding 67,000 jobs. There were also 52,000 new government jobs in February, the majority in the education sector. 

The food and beverage service industry added 42,000 new jobs. 

Although average hourly earnings only went up 5 cents between January and February, a bump in average hours worked meant average weekly earnings increased by over $5 per worker between months. The average weekly wage for U.S. workers is $1,185.75, up from $1,143.68.

SEE MORE: Katie Britt in national spotlight with response to State of the Union

Average weekly earnings have increased by 3.6% in the last year. The consumer price index, as of January, was 3.1% for the 12-month period ending in January, indicating wages are slightly outpacing inflation. 

The new data comes one day after President Joe Biden touted the progress of the U.S. economy at the State of the Union. 

"I think he outlined an optimistic vision for the country," White House communications director Ben Labolt told Scripps News early Friday. "We have the strongest economy in the world after the pandemic and after the supply chain crisis. Because of policies that President Biden put into place, 15 million jobs have been created, unemployment has been under 4% for two whole years, the first time in 50 years that's happened. The president, last night, outlined an agenda to continue to lower costs for the American people on issues from health care to housing."

But Republicans say that job growth and low unemployment is not something Americans are feeling as the price of goods and services have gone up. According to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, 58% of registered voters surveyed disapprove of President Biden's handling of the economy. Just 31% of those polled rated the economy as good or excellent. 

Sen. Katie Britt pointed to the inflation rate as a reason she says the U.S. economy is failing. Although the inflation rate is far lower now than it was in June 2022, the consumer price index reached a peak of over 9% under President Biden's watch, marking a four-decade high.

"His reckless spending dug our economy into a hole and sent the cost of living through the roof," she said in the GOP's rebuttal to the president's address. "The worst inflation in 40 years. The highest credit card debt in history. Hardworking families are struggling to make ends meet today. And with soaring mortgage rates and sky-high child care costs, they’re also struggling to plan for tomorrow."

The U.S. Federal Reserve noted that credit card debt increased by $113 billion by Americans in 2023. Americans now hold a record  $1.13 trillion in credit card debt, the agency said. 


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