OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — President Joe Biden announced Friday that unemployment in the United States has dropped to 3.6% with the creation of 431,000 jobs in the month of March. The White House's Deputy Press Secretary, Chris Meagher, spoke to 3 News Now about the national economy and what else the Biden Administration hopes to improve.
"We’ve added almost 8 million jobs since President Biden took over in January of 2021. So we’re headed in the right direction thanks to a lot of the policies that we’ve been able to implement, thanks to the American Rescue Plan that was passed into law at the beginning of last year," said Meagher. "And we know that there’s still more work to do, but today’s numbers are a sign that the economy is strong and getting stronger.
The data was released in a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to show an overall population of 6 million Americans who are currently unemployed, which matches near pre-pandemic levels of unemployment to February 2020's 3.5% unemployment rate and 5.7 million unemployed.
The top industries that experienced growth accounted for an average of 562,000 additional jobs per month in the first quarter of 2022. Broken down for the month of March by industry, leisure and hospitality employment increased by 112,000, professional and business service employment increased by 102,000 jobs, retail trade employment by 49,000 jobs, and manufacturing grew by 38,000 jobs.
Manufacturing still remains 1.0% below its national pre-pandemic February 2020 rate with 128,000 fewer positions filled. However, the Heartland states are working to close this gap. Nebraska is leading many a category when it comes to its impressive workforce but notably has the highest manufacturing employment since August 2008 with 101,300 jobs, per the Office of the Governor.
Nebraska has led the nation as the No. 1 state with the lowest unemployment at just 2.2%, rising above pre-pandemic job levels with an additional 12,000 jobs that have been created. Nebraska's workforce participation of 69.7% puts the Cornhusker state in the number one position in the nation.
The Hawkeye state, on the other hand, has a statewide unemployment rate of 3.5% — 0.3% below the national unemployment rate, per the most recent data from Iowa Workforce Development, which also shows a gain of 5,800 jobs in February. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that Iowa has recovered 84% of its jobs that were lost during the pandemic. This is perhaps a combination of rising wages and the threat of state legislation that would significantly decrease unemployment benefits. At the state level, Iowa saw the greatest gains in "eating and drinking establishments," administrative support and waste management, building services and manufacturing.
With global supply chain issues caused by the pandemic and exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine war, increases in manufacturing couldn't come at a better time.
"These numbers that are out today are signs of strong economic progress but the President knows that we still have a lot of work left to do, said Meagher. "He knows that people are still feeling the pain when they get to the gas station and are filling up their car to go to work, or going to the grocery store to get food for their family. So we’re not sitting around and waiting."
"As you mentioned, the supply chain has experienced a lot of kinks because of the pandemic and that’s something that’s been happening globally, but here in the US, the President jumped in action with the Port Action Plan to help expedite getting goods from the ship to the shelf where the consumer had access to it."
Meagher also mentioned Thursday's announcement from President Biden for a historic release of up to one million barrels of oil per day from the strategic petroleum reserve. The move is expected to alleviate high gas costs for American consumers, "which will help us bridge the gap and sort of allow us to take a wartime production stance as we deal with the impacts of the Putin price hike and the impacts of Putin’s war on Ukraine."
As the nation and its individual states continue to generate jobs that will decrease staffing shortages and improve pandemic-related supply chain disruptions, Meagher said the Biden administration is setting its sights on other ways to help the average American, such as lowering the costs of child and elder care and health expenses.