Responding to the latest unemployment numbers, Vice President Joe Biden said today that he and President Obama will announce Monday plans to "ramp up" the pace of projects from the $787 billion economic stimulus plan.
The Labor Department reported that while employers cut 345,000 jobs in May -- the lowest monthly total since September -- the national unemployment rate still rose to 9.4 percent, the highest in more than a quarter century.
Biden called the numbers "tough" but said there are also "some signs of hope today," according to the press pool report before his meeting with his chief economist, Jared Bernstein, and Christina Romer, chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors.
Still, he told reporters, "It doesn't satisfy me, it doesn't satisfy the president. Less bad is not how we're going to measure success. We will not be satisfied until we are adding jobs on a monthly basis."
He did not offer more specifics about the Monday announcement.
Biden, who was put in charge of overseeing the recovery package by Obama, said that 3,600 projects are underway from the stimulus package, and that today's jobs report shows "some signs" of this.
"We still have a very long way to go," Biden said, adding "We're working to build that foundation every day we're here." (His full remarks are below.)
Critics, however, have complained that money for roads and other infrastructure projects, and have questioned the administration's jobs figures -- more than 150,000 saved or created as of late last month, 100 days after the stimulus was passed.
But the top House Republican, John Boehner of Ohio, used the jobs report to lay into the Obama administration's policies and the effectiveness of the stimulus package, which not a single GOP representative supported.
"Today's unemployment rate is the highest in more than a quarter century, and it's another reminder of how Washington is hanging middle-class Americans out to dry. More than 2.5 million Americans have lost their jobs this year, and what have the Democrats in charge of Washington given them? A trillion-dollar 'stimulus' that isn't producing jobs immediately, as the Administration promised, and that Vice President Biden admits is ripping off the American people. Another $400 billion spending bill loaded with 9,000 unscrutinized earmarks. And bailouts that reward irresponsible behavior and bad business decisions. These policies are harming middle class families when they can least afford it and adding to the massive debt inherited by future generations," he said in a statement.
"There is a better way. Doubling down on the Democrats' plans to tax more, spend more, and borrow more from our children and grandchildren is not the right answer to this economic crisis. Republicans have offered better solutions to create more jobs, curb spending, cut taxes, rebuild savings, and control the debt, and we have reached out to our Democratic counterparts to work on these policies in a constructive way. I urge Democrats in Congress and the Administration to finally follow through on their promises of bipartisan cooperation."
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, this morning we received another reminder of the challenges facing working families: the nation's payroll contracted again last month -- 345,000 jobs -- and the unemployment rate rose to 9.4 percent, the highest jobless rate in almost 26 years.
Now, although these numbers are tough, they also -- they're also much more than numbers. Behind every one of these job losses is a family, an individual, community that's trying to make it through the deepest recession in a decade and are hurting, are hurt badly by it. But there's also some signs of hope today in the report, and a few signs that our actions to get this economy back on track are beginning to make some difference.
Analysts, as you all know -- and many of you are reporting -- expected that we'd lose more than 500,000 jobs in May. Instead, we lost $345,000 [sic] -- 345,000 jobs, nearly a third fewer than were expected. That's the lowest number of job loss since this past September, and the fourth month in a row that we're shedding fewer jobs than the month before.
Now, I don't expect that to satisfy anyone. It doesn't satisfy me. It doesn't satisfy the President. It doesn't satisfy our economic advisors. Particularly, it doesn't satisfy anyone who is out there struggling to get by.
And it's especially the case for our nation's factories. We lost more than 150,000 of those jobs last month in states hardest hit by the restructuring of the auto industry. And I might add, my state of Delaware has been particularly hit hard by the automobile industry along with Michigan and other major -- big states.
And let me be very clear: A lower job rate loss is not our goal. "Less bad" is not how we're going to measure success -- we're going to measure success here in the White House. We will not be satisfied until we're adding jobs on a monthly basis; providing working Americans with a stable job, dependable income; ensuring that everyone who wants to make their way into the middle class has a shot to get into the middle class. And that's why we're continuing to act, continuing to do everything we can to turn this economy around and jump start the American job machine, which has a way to go yet.
So, look, in just over a hundred days -- the Recovery Act is only a hundred days old -- there is new economic activity and job creation in every single state in this country. For example, more than $11 billion in highway funds, in highway construction funds, have been made available for a total of 3,600 projects in states all across the nation.
And I'm pleased that today's report shows some signs -- some signs that all this activity is having this desired impact. Construction unemployment, for example, is down 59,000 jobs in May, cutting in half the average of 125,000 jobs lost each month over the first four months of this year. And so there is some direct signs that what we're doing is having an impact.
And, yes, it's an encouraging sign. But I want to make it clear -- and caution everyone -- there's certainly going to be more setbacks on the road before we get finally to recovery. As much progress is already made, we still have a long, long way to go in the road to recovery. And that's why on Monday the President and I will be announcing our plans to ramp up the Recovery Act implementation over the summer.
And over the longer term, we know that the economic future of this country depends on the unique skills of the working men and women of this country, on them getting health care and getting those health care costs under control, and on building a clean-energy future to build this new economy on.
So together these initiatives will not only spark job growth today, but we are absolutely convinced they're going to serve as a foundation, a platform, for an economic growth spurt of tomorrow not based on a bubble, but based on real, sound economic practices and growth. And we're working to build that foundation every day we're here, and I think we're making some discernable progress.
I remain confident that the country is going to emerge from this recession, and it's going to emerge stronger and wiser than it was before we went in. We're going to take steps to reform the excesses that brought this economy down to ensure that the benefits of growth are shared with hard-working, middle-class families.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.