President Joe Biden speaks before signing two bills aimed at fighting fraud in the COVID-19 small business aid programs at the White House on Aug. 5 in Washington, DC (Photo: Photo by Evan Vucci – Pool/Getty Images )
WASHINGTON — Still testing positive for COVID-19 and barely a week after statistics suggested the U.S. economy was in recession, President Joe Biden put on his trademark Ray-Ban sunglasses on Friday to stage a victory lap over a strong jobs report.
“It is the lowest unemployment rate in America in the last 50 years: 3.5%. Yes, 3.5%. There are more people working in America today than before the pandemic started,” Biden told a small group of reporters who gathered before him on the Blue Room balcony overlooking the South Lawn. “In fact, there are more people at work than at any time in American history.”
The Labor Department announced Friday that the economy had added 528,000 new jobs in July, a staggering number more than double what economists predicted. The figures for the previous months have also been slightly revised upwards.
On July 28, another federal report showed the country’s gross domestic product contracted 0.9% in the second three months of the year — the second consecutive quarter of negative growth. That was the shorthand definition for recessions in the past. But it may not be an accurate indicator after the government’s pandemic response, which pumped trillions into the economy to keep it from collapsing.
Biden made no mention of that, but focused on the employment situation, which again included a large increase in manufacturing jobs.
“Today’s jobs report is part of a broader story,” Biden said. He then attributed the numbers to his economic policies. He also took the opportunity to sell the new congressional Democrats agreement to approve a scaled-down version of the expanded “Build Back Better” agenda he pushed throughout his campaign and in his first year and a half in office.
Biden said he understands many Americans are struggling because of high inflation, but the new compromise legislation — which chief architect Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va) has called the Inflation Reduction Act — will help address that.
“This bill is a game-changer for working families in our economy,” he said.
Biden tested positive for COVID-19 on July 21. However, with both initial vaccinations and two booster doses, his symptoms were mild, according to the White House. He was also prescribed the new antiviral Paxlovid and continued to work throughout the period.
After a negative test on July 26, Biden started testing positive again on Saturday, a common occurrence among those who have taken Paxlovid.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.