Washington, March 5 (AFP/APP): The US economy saw better-than-expected hiring in February as businesses battered by the Covid-19 pandemic began recruiting employees again, while Congress moved forward with President Joe Biden’s massive stimulus proposal despite Republican opposition.
Payrolls jumped by 379,000 last month, which was almost double expectations and pushed the unemployment rate down slightly to 6.2 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday. The vast majority of the gains were in the leisure and hospitality sector, including the bars and restaurants that were the first to close as business restrictions to stop Covid-19 began nearly a year ago, a sign that the world’s largest economy may finally be healing.
Yet the economy was still short 9.5 million jobs compared to February 2020 before the pandemic began, the report said, and White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain said the data underscore the need for lawmakers to approve Biden’s plan for nearly $1.9 trillion in aid.
“If you think today’s jobs report is ‘good enough,’ then know that at this pace (+379,000 jobs/month), it would take until April 2023 to get back to where we were in February 2020,” he said on Twitter.
Biden’s proposal would be the third major stimulus package to help the United States weather the Covid-19 crisis, and includes a range of measures such expanded aid for small businesses and the unemployed as well as stimulus checks for Americans. However, the Republican opposition has argued the proposal is excessive, and it faces a narrow path of enactment in the Senate, where lawmakers will on Friday begin the process of offering amendments to the bill in a debate that could stretch into Saturday.
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