A help call sign is posted on a taco stand in Solana Beach, California.
Mike Blake | Reuters
The largest corporate lobby group in America on Friday accused $ 300 a week of unemployment benefits for tricking Americans into staying home and April’s far weaker-than-expected job report.
“The disappointing employment report makes it clear that the pay of people who do not work is dampening the stronger labor market,” said the US Chamber of Commerce in the hours after the Labor Department published its April 2021 employment report.
“One step that policymakers should take now is to end the additional $ 300 weekly unemployment benefit,” added the lobby group. “Based on the Chamber’s analysis, the $ 300 benefit means that roughly one in four recipients takes home more unemployment than they earned.”
A chamber spokesman confirmed to CNBC that it will use similar messages to lobby the White House and Capitol Hill to end the payout.
The group’s attack on federal unemployment benefits came hours after the Labor Department reported that total non-farm employment rose by 266,000 last month, well below the 1 million Dow Jones polled economists expected.
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The Biden government has pushed back arguments like those of the Chamber. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, who appeared on CNBC Friday, dismissed arguments from Republicans and corporate groups that the increased unemployment benefits are encouraging potential workers to stay home.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also waved such criticisms, telling reporters Friday afternoon that she disagreed that the unemployment benefit increase “is really the factor that makes a difference”.
“When you look at states or sectors or workers, if it is really the added benefits that are hindering hiring, expect it to be either in states or for workers in or sectors where the replacement rate is due [unemployment insurance] is very high – you would expect the placement rates to be lower, “she said.” In fact, you see exactly the opposite. “
Minnesota-born Democrat Ilhan Omar was cynical about the Chamber’s criticism of the $ 300 weekly benefit.
For much of the past year, millions of unemployed Americans have qualified for special federal unemployment benefits to replace income lost from layoffs during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first such federal unemployment benefit began under former President Donald Trump in March 2020 when he signed the Cares Act. This law gave unemployed Americans a weekly allowance of $ 600, which in many cases was a higher income than workers received while working full-time.
Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Countered that companies should pay higher wages to their workers instead.
President Joe Biden’s US $ 1.9 trillion bailout plan, which went into effect in March, provides unemployment benefits of $ 300 per week. Without additional government intervention, this benefit will expire at the beginning of September.
Some economists and many Republicans have accused the benefit of deterring Americans from returning to the jobs they held before the pandemic.
For example, South Carolina governor Henry McMaster earlier this week ordered the state’s Department of Employment and Labor to withdraw from the federal government’s pandemic programs by the end of June.
“This labor shortage is caused in large part by the additional unemployment benefits that the federal government is providing applicants with on top of their state unemployment benefits,” McMaster said in a press release Thursday.
“What was meant to be short-term financial assistance to vulnerable and displaced people during the height of the pandemic has become a dangerous federal claim that encourages and pays workers to stay at home rather than encourage them to return to work. ” he added.