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Biden says US economy is recovering faster than expected

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President Joe Biden said the US economy is recovering from the pandemic faster and stronger than expected, after a report showing the labor market got back on track last month with broad-based payroll gains.

“America is getting back to work; our economy is starting to work for more Americans,” Biden said at the White House.

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“Our economy is on the move,” he added, calling the recovery “historically strong.”

Nonfarm payrolls increased 531,000 last month, beating an estimate of 450,000, a Labor Department report showed Friday. The data also show large upward revisions to the prior two months. The unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent while the labor force participation rate was unchanged.

Biden’s speech comes with Congress grappling over his economic agenda -- an infrastructure bill and a broader package of social programs and tax measures he calls “Build Back Better.” The House may vote on the measures as soon as Friday, potentially delivering the infrastructure bill to Biden for his signature.

“I’m asking every House member, member of the House of Representatives, to vote yes on both these bills right now,” Biden said. “Send the infrastructure bill my desk, send the Build Back Better bill to the Senate.”

Biden has argued that his bills will ease barriers to re-entering the labor force, including by providing childcare subsidies. However, the legislation would still need to pass the Senate, which could take weeks or months after Democrat Joe Manchin, a key deciding vote, called for a delay.

The October employment data paint a sunnier picture of the job market than previously thought, with COVID-19 cases easing and higher wages helping employers fill near-record openings.

“Beating COVID-19 remains one of the most important ways to strengthen our economy,” he said.

The report wasn’t all positive. The labor-force participation rate has barely budged in recent months, signaling that millions of Americans remain on the sidelines. The unemployment rate for Black Americans also remained unchanged.

“There’s a lot more to be done. We still have to tackle the costs that American families are facing,” Biden said. “But this recovery is faster, stronger, fairer and wider than almost anyone could have predicted.”

US Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said a new rule requiring most private employers to mandate coronavirus vaccines should lead to more people returning to the labor market.

“We’ll start to see, hopefully, some of those 3.8 million people who right now are saying they’re not coming back because of the pandemic, we’ll start to see those folks will feel safe enough to come back into the workplace,” Walsh said in an interview Friday with Bloomberg Television. “We can’t overlook the fact that people are afraid to go back to work.”

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