Strong Job Growth in January is a Boost for Biden

A surge in job growth in January provided President Biden a lift just hours before he traveled to Philadelphia to deliver a speech on his economic vision for the United States.

Employers added 517,000 jobs in January, the Labor Department said on Friday, and the unemployment rate fell to 3.4 percent, the lowest since 1969.

In remarks at the White House, Mr. Biden hailed the news as evidence that his policies have succeeded despite months of inflation that has caused economic pain for many people and sparked fears of a recession.

“For the past two years, we’ve heard a chorus of critics write off my economic plan,” Mr. Biden said. “Well, today’s data makes crystal clear. What I’ve always known in my gut is critics and cynics are wrong.”

Mr. Biden has for months pointed to job growth as evidence that his agenda has rebuilt the economy after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered much of the United States. Ahead of a likely re-election announcement, he has amplified that narrative to draw a contrast between what he says are policies that produced steady growth and the tax and spending plans of some House Republicans.

The job numbers have been reason to celebrate for the White House, but they underscore the challenge facing the Federal Reserve, whose officials have waited for a slowdown in hiring to tame inflation. Rising consumer prices have been one of the more glaring political vulnerabilities for Mr. Biden throughout his first two years in office. The Fed on Wednesday raised interest rates for an eighth consecutive time in a year in an effort to cool rapid inflation.

Asked after his remarks whether he takes responsibility for inflation that remains high, Mr. Biden said he does not.

“Because it was already there,” he said. “When I got here, man. Remember what the economy was like? 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.”

Republicans have accused the White House of worsening inflation by injecting too much money into the economy and have called for major spending cuts.

The White House has also been anxious over a worker shortage as Mr. Biden focuses on the implementation of his infrastructure, economic and climate legislation this year to galvanize voters. The labor market has remained tight; data released this week showed that the number of posted jobs per available unemployed worker rose again in December.