A help-seeking sign is displayed at a taco stand in Solana Beach, California.
Mike Blake | Reuters
America’s largest business lobbying group on Friday blamed a federal unemployment benefit of $ 300 a week for making Americans stay home and the much weaker-than-expected April jobs report.
“The disappointing jobs report makes it clear that paying people not to work slows down what should be a stronger job market,” the US Chamber of Commerce said within hours of the call. publication by the Ministry of Labor of its employment report for April 2021.
“A step that policymakers should take now is to end the additional weekly unemployment benefits of $ 300,” the lobby group added. “According to the Chamber’s analysis, the $ 300 benefit results in about one in four beneficiaries losing more unemployment than they earned while working.”
A House spokesperson confirmed to CNBC that he would use a similar message to pressure the White House and Capitol Hill to end the payment.
The group’s attack on federal unemployment benefits came hours after the Labor Department announced that total non-farm payroll employment rose by 266,000 last month, well below the million expected by economists polled. by Dow Jones.
The Biden administration rebuffed arguments like the House’s. Appearing on CNBC on Friday, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh dismissed arguments by Republicans and business groups that improved unemployment benefits encourage potential workers to stay at home.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also criticized such criticism and told reporters on Friday afternoon that she doesn’t think the addition of unemployment benefits “is really the factor that makes the difference.”
“When you look across states, industries, or workers, if it’s really the added benefits that have held back hiring, you would expect to see this either in states or for workers or industries where the replacement rate is due. to [unemployment insurance] is very high – you would expect to see lower job search rates, ”she said. And, in fact, what you are seeing is the exact opposite. “
Representative Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, offered a cynical take on the House’s criticisms of the $ 300 a week.
For much of the past year, millions of unemployed Americans have qualified for a special federal unemployment benefit to help replace income lost as a result of layoffs during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first such federal unemployment benefit began under former President Donald Trump in March 2020, when he signed the Cares Act. This law offered unemployed Americans a weekly supplement of $ 600, which in many cases was more income than workers received when employed full time.
Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Replied that companies should instead pay higher wages to their workers.
President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion US bailout, signed in March, provides unemployment benefits of $ 300 per week. Without any additional government intervention, this benefit will expire in early September.
Some economists and many Republicans have blamed the benefit of discouraging Americans from returning to jobs they held before the pandemic.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, for example, earlier this week ordered the state Department of Employment and Manpower to withdraw from government pandemic programs. federal by the end of June.
“This labor shortage is created in large part by the additional unemployment payments that the federal government provides to claimants in addition to their state unemployment benefits,” McMaster said in a press release dated Thursday.
“What was supposed to be short-term financial aid for vulnerable and displaced people at the height of the pandemic has turned into a dangerous federal law, making and paying workers to stay at home rather than encouraging them to return.” at their workplace ”. he added.