Washington, D.C. — Michael Madowitz, an economist at the Center for American Progress, released the following statement today after the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics published its April 2021 employment situation report:
Today’s announcement that the economy added 266,000 jobs last month underscores that, while the economy is in recovery, it is not recovering quickly enough. After a week of anecdotes about labor shortages, the data tell a very clear story that any worker shortage is due to fewer women in the labor force. All labor force growth this month came from men, while more women dropped out, likely due to the fact that the nation’s care infrastructure does not meet the needs of millions of families. While the provisions of the American Rescue Plan are still taking effect, it prevented a widespread humanitarian crisis. Still, it is clear that more must be done to truly pull the economy out of crisis and put the country on the path to sustained, broad-based economic growth. Congress now faces a choice between continuing the uncertain and sluggish recovery or passing the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, which would not only quickly generate jobs but fundamentally put the economy on a new trajectory of long-lasting, shared prosperity.
The American Families Plan and the American Jobs Plan both make targeted investments in the people who have not only been most harmed by the crisis, but also whose spending and work will generate sustainable economic growth for years to come. This agenda is a sharp break from past policies that have failed to generate broad-based growth because they have focused on trickle-down tax cuts at the expense of public investments and support for families. The American Families Plan, in particular, addresses the obstacles that have disproportionately kept women out of the labor force. Federal Reserve research indicates that there would be 5 million more people in the workforce if the United States enacted national paid leave and more affordable child care, similar to the policies in the American Families Plan.
Right now, decades of anemic gross domestic product growth and compounding structural inequalities mean that without further action, Americans are facing an uncertain economic future. Today’s report also underscores that the economy is not working for everyone. Women are still millions of jobs short of recouping the historic losses they experienced last year. This is especially true for Black, Latina, and Asian American women, who have disproportionately lost jobs over the past year. The unemployment rate for Latino men is much higher than for white men, while the unemployment rate for Black men is back at more than 10 percent. Additionally, workers without education beyond high school have not regained jobs at the same level as workers with associate or bachelor’s degrees. Because the economy did add jobs and the gains were concentrated in sectors that were previously struggling, the data absolutely belie any notion of labor shortages.
The Biden administration’s policies are already laying the groundwork for economic recovery. Its successful vaccination program means that more than 100 million people are, for the first time in more than a year, able to safely venture outside their homes. Still, there is no doubt that the pandemic continues to hold back the economy, and having all Americans get vaccinated to crush the virus would be an invaluable and immediate step. The country is at a crossroads. More must be done to make the investments in the people and jobs that would unlock a new era of shared prosperity. The American Families Plan and the American Jobs Plan present an opportunity—not seen in decades—to do just that. It is now up to Congress to do its job and pass both packages to spur economic growth and help families thrive.
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