- July’s jobs data was “probably the best jobs report” Jason Furman has ever seen.
- The former Obama economist told Insider that’s why it’s not the right time to pull back stimulus aid.
- He favors extending jobless aid for gig workers and the unemployed past September.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The economy added 943,000 jobs in July, smashing past forecasters’ estimates and underscoring the strength of the recovery from the pandemic.
Experts noted key gauges of economic health moved in the right direction: The unemployment rate fell, particularly among Black and Hispanic workers. Wages rose while the long-term unemployment rate dropped.
“This is probably the best jobs report that I’ve seen,” Jason Furman, former chief economist to President Barack Obama, said in an interview.
Yet Furman acknowledged that the US economy remains 7.5 million jobs below pre-pandemic levels, and the Delta variant of the coronavirus threatens to stymie the recovery especially if new restrictions are once again needed. Daily infection rates are surging, while hospitalizations are climbing.
The economy needs more time to recover, and the pandemic simply isn’t over. Even at its current rapid pace, it’s on course to regain every job lost in the pandemic by the end of next year, as Insider’s Ben Winck and Andy Kiersz reported.
A recent report from the left-leaning Century Foundation indicated that 7.5 million people will lose all their unemployment benefits in just a month. The hardest-hit individuals would be gig workers and the long-term unemployed, two groups that won’t qualify for state unemployment insurance once their federal support lapses.
Those programs were renewed through September 6 under President Joe Biden’s stimulus law earlier this year. Furman argues it’s not time yet to pull back all emergency federal support because variant-related cases are exploring.
“Given the resurgent pandemic, I would grandfather people into the extra weeks and the pandemic unemployment assistance,” Furman, now a Harvard professor, said in an interview. “I would also seriously consider extending the programs and possibly making them contingent on caseload and hospitalization numbers.”
When it comes to the $US300 ($AU409) federal supplement, Furman does favor scaling it back or eliminating it entirely. He argues it kept people from returning to work.
“I think some thoughtful extension of some of the provisions would make a lot of sense given where we are in the pandemic,” he told Insider. “But it shouldn’t be anything like what we had in place in January when 3,000 people were dying a day.”
It’s unclear if the programs will ultimately be extended. Senate Democrats are in early discussions about what they will tuck into their $US3.5 ($AU5) trillion spending package. They are poised to approve it in reconciliation, a process that requires all 50 Senate Democrats to stick together for the plan to clear the upper chamber.
“The UI, some of them we’ll probably talk about as part of the reconciliation bill,” Sen. Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Budget Committee drafting the bill, said on Thursday. “I don’t see it as likely that Congress is going to extend the enhanced benefit, but I think there is some reason we need to be talking about the extra weeks and gig workers.”