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Biden touts stronger than expected jobs report: ‘America is back to work’

(WASHINGTON) — After the White House braced for a disappointing January jobs report officials predicted would be skewed by the omicron variant, President Joe Biden took a triumphant tone at the White House Friday to tout the unexpected economic win.

“I want to speak to you this morning about an extraordinary resilience and grit of the American people and American capitalism. Our country is taking everything that COVID’s thrown at us. We’ve come back stronger,” Biden said. “I’m pleased to report this morning, many of you already know, that America’s job machine is going stronger than ever.”

The January jobs report released Friday shows a strong American economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 467,000 jobs were added in January — much higher than economists’ expectations that 150,000 jobs would be added. The unemployment rate was little changed at 4%.

In a rare, positive revision, the report also showed that 709,000 more jobs were added in the previous two months than previously reported as data collection has been impacted in the pandemic.

“America is back to work,” Biden said, highlighting the numbers.

As the administration continues to battle rising inflation and growing doubt in Biden’s handling of the economy, White House officials had offered prebuttals ahead of Friday’s report, saying those who were out on unpaid sick leave the week data was gathered will count erroneously as unemployed.

“We just wanted to kind of prepare, you know, people to understand how the data is taken, what they’re looking at, and what it is an assessment of. And as a result, the month’s jobs report may show job losses in large part because workers were out sick from Omicron at the point when it was peaking during the period when — the week where the data was taken,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

With the positive report, the Federal Reserve will likely stick to its plan of pulling back stimulus measures and raising rates — potentially even moving faster than previously planned.

Biden noted how Friday’s report caps off his first year as president, and over that period, the U.S. economy created 6.6 million jobs — a figure unmatched by recent presidents.

“If you can’t remember another year when so many people went to work in this country, there’s a reason. It never happened,” Biden said. “Take a look at the chart. You can look at the last, all the way back to President Reagan.”

He also took the chance to tout how the bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year is already taking effect and to push for congressional action on other items stalled on his domestic agenda including signature items in his Build Back Better agenda, like subsidized childcare and lowering prescription drug prices.

“Look, the bottom line is this: The United States is once again in a position to not only compete with the rest of the world — but out-compete the rest of the world once again,” Biden said. “Let’s keep building a better America.”

But even with the strong jobs growth, the latest report still showed significant pandemic impacts.

The number of people unable to work at some point in the previous month because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic doubled in January to 6 million. Teleworking increased, to more than one in seven employed people. And among the unemployed, 1.8 million were prevented from looking for work because of the pandemic, up from 1.1 million in December.

It comes as Biden faces significant skepticism from the American public, with his job approval rating lagging across a range of major issues, including new lows for his handling of the economic recovery, an ABC/Ipsos poll from December found.

More than two-thirds of Americans (69%) disapprove of how Biden is handling inflation (only 28% approve) while more than half (57%) disapprove of his handling of the economic recovery. Partisan splits for inflation show expected negativity in Republican views (94% disapproving), but the survey also revealed weaknesses from Biden’s own party with only a slim majority of Democrats (54%) approving. Biden’s orbit is also hemorrhaging independent voters, with 71% disapproving of his handling of inflation.

“I know it hasn’t been easy. I know that January was a very hard month for many Americans,” Biden said Friday. “I know that after almost two years, the physical and emotional weight of the pandemic has been incredibly difficult to bear for so many people.”

But now, Biden added, “We’re seeing the difference our efforts have made.”

ABC News’ Zunaira Zaki and Gary Langer contributed to this report.

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