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President Biden said Friday that the disappointing April jobs report, which showed the U.S. economy added just 266,000 jobs last month, underscores the importance of the COVID-19 relief package and his other proposed spending plans.

Why it matters: Economists had expected a gain of around 1 million jobs last month, making this the biggest payrolls miss, relative to expectations, in decades.

Between the lines: Republicans have seized on the underwhelming figures to attack Biden's spending plans as unnecessary and damaging to the economy, claiming that expanded unemployment benefits have kept Americans from seeking jobs.

  • Biden repudiated that view and said that he knew when he took office that the economic recovery would be a "marathon," not a "sprint." He denied that there is "measurable" data to suggest people aren't looking for jobs because of enhanced unemployment benefits.
  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said at a press briefing shortly after Biden's remarks that "there's no question that we're hearing from businesses that they are having difficulty hiring workers," but that she does not believe that extra unemployment insurance is the "major factor.

What they're saying: "Listening to commentators today, as I was getting dressed, you might think that we should be disappointed. But when we passed the American Rescue Plan, I want to remind everybody it was designed to help us over the course of a year, not 60 days. A year," Biden said in an address from the White House.

  • "We never thought that after the first 50 or 60 days everything would be fine. Today there's more evidence that our economy is moving in the right direction, but it's clear we have a long way to go."
  • "Some critics said that we didn't need the American Rescue Plan, that this economy would just heal itself. Today's report just underscores, in my view, how vital the actions we're taking are."

The big picture: Biden noted that overall, the economy has added more than 1.5 million jobs since he took office, an average of 500,000 per month. "This is progress," he said. "And it's a testament to our new strategy of growing this economy from the bottom up and the middle out."

What to watch: Yellen said she expects the U.S. economy to reach full unemployment next year.

Go deeper

May 6, 2021 - Technology

Two tales of jobs in tech hubs

Expand chart
Data: Indeed; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Jobs are coming back more slowly in America's top tech centers than in other cities — but it's not the tech jobs that are lagging, according to a new analysis from the jobs site Indeed.

What's happening: Pandemic-era remote work is still keeping white-collar workers in tech hubs at home, and that's slowing down the recovery of local shops and restaurants in those communities.

The limits of "Buy American"

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Joe Biden and Donald Trump agree on at least one thing: Buy American. The slogan was a centerpiece of Biden's recent address to Congress, backed up with one of his first executive orders.

Why it matters: Federal law has placed a heavy thumb on the scales when it comes to hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. government spending. But it's far from clear that it will have its desired effect.

S.C. governor orders end to federal COVID-related unemployment benefits

Photo: Micah Green/Bloomberg via Getty Images

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) on Thursday ordered the termination of the state's participation in all federal, pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs.

Driving the news: McMaster cited labor shortages, but some experts say it's the job climate and not unemployment benefits that is determining the pace at which people are returning to work.