Biden’s challenge: Finding workers and goods
President Joe Biden enters the midterm election year of 2022 determined to address what economists call a “supply” problem — there aren’t enough jobseekers or goods to meet the country’s needs.
This is also a political problem. The mismatch has obscured the strong growth and 3.9% unemployment rate achieved during Biden’s first year, the kind of performance that would typically help the president and congressional Democrats woo voters in the midterms. It has left Biden trying to showcase his economic achievements while trying to parry Republican criticism that his policies have fueled inflation.
“This is the kind of recovery I promised and hoped for for the American people,” the president said in remarks Friday. “My focus is on keeping this recovery strong and durable, notwithstanding Republican obstructionism. Because, you know, I know that even as jobs and families’ incomes have recovered, families are still feeling the pinch of prices and costs.”
Pessimism has overtaken Americans’ views on the economy, even though the economy is objectively better than it was in 2020 right before Biden took office. The index of consumer sentiment tracked by the University of Michigan is 12.5% lower than a year ago, despite people being vaccinated and 6.4 million jobs added over the past 12 months.
Shoppers are focused on shortages of cars, bath towels and even breakfast cereal. Employers can’t fill the 10.6 million jobs they’re advertising, as Friday’s employment report showed a mere 199,000 jobs gained in December.