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    Where Jobless Benefits Were Cut, Jobs Are Still Hard to Fill

    Missouri scrapped federal pay to the unemployed, saying it kept people out of the labor market. But so far, workers still seem to be choosy.MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. — By lunchtime, the representatives from the recruiting agency Express Employment Professionals decided to pack up and leave the job fair in the St. Louis suburb of Maryland Heights. Hardly anyone had shown up.“We were hoping we would see prepandemic levels,” said Courtney Boyle, general manager of Express. After all, Missouri had just cut off federal unemployment benefits.Business owners had complained that the assistance, as Gov. Mike Parson put it, “incentivized people to stay out of the work force.” He made Missouri one of the first four states to halt the federal aid; a total of 26 have said they will do so by next month. But in the St. Louis metropolitan area, where the jobless rate was 4.2 percent in May, those who expected the June 12 termination would unleash a flood of job seekers were disappointed.Work-force development officials said they had seen virtually no uptick in applicants since the governor’s announcement, which ended a $300 weekly supplement to other benefits. And the online job site Indeed found that in states that have abandoned the federal benefits, clicks on job postings were below the national average.Of course, it’s early. But conversations with employers who are hunting for workers and people who are hunting for jobs in the St. Louis area revealed stark differences in expectations and assumptions about what a day’s work is worth.The divide raises a fundamental question of what a healthy labor market looks like. Does it mean workers are on such a knife edge that they feel compelled to take the first job that comes along? Or is it one in which employers are the ones who have to scramble and feel pressured to raise wages and improve working conditions? Are the economy and the public better off when workers get to be choosy or when employers do?“One way you might define normal is when employers and workers have the same idea of what an appropriate package looks like, and then the issue is matching up the people with the jobs,” said Katharine G. Abraham, an economist at the University of Maryland and a former commissioner at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.“Clearly part of the problem now,” she said, “is that what employers and what workers think is out of whack.”Why businesses are having such trouble hiring when 9.3 million people were unemployed in May is a puzzle that has generated lots of speculation, but little hard evidence. Many economists are skeptical that enhanced jobless benefits have played an outsize role in the hiring squeeze. They are more likely to point to child care and continuing health fears with less than half the population fully vaccinated. Nor should it be surprising that the nation’s road back from the harrowing limbo of the pandemic, in which millions of jobs vanished and more than 600,000 people have died, is bumpy.In any case, the squeeze has given many job seekers the confidence that they can push for higher wages or wait until employers come around.“They know how in demand they are,” said Angelic Hobart, a client service manager at American Staffing who occupied a table at the Maryland Heights job fair. “And I think that is being taken advantage of.” She said she had dozens of manufacturing, warehouse, sales, office and technology positions to fill. But public benefits have made people “very complacent,” she said. And sometimes “their pay expectations are way over what their skill level is.”Many of the 34 employers and agencies at the job fair said they had raised wages by $1 an hour or more in recent months. And they shared a refrain: There were good jobs available but not enough good workers to fill them, those who were reliable and were willing to work hard.That’s not the way Elodie Nohone saw it. “They’re offering $10, $12, $13,” said Ms. Nohone, who already earns $15 an hour as a visiting caregiver and was hoping to find a higher-paying opportunity. “There’s no point in being here.”Her boyfriend, Damond Green, was making his way around the room. He holds two jobs, one at McDonald’s, where after seven years he earns $15 an hour, and another providing home health care. He and Ms. Nohone have a baby on the way, and Mr. Green is looking for one job with higher pay. “Two jobs stretch you thin,” he said.“I want to do something where my work is appreciated,” he said, “and pay me decent.” His goal is to earn $50,000 a year, or about $25 an hour — roughly the median earnings of wage and salaried employees in the United States.The labor market’s deeper problem, said Francine D. Blau, an economist at Cornell University, is the proliferation of low-paid jobs with few prospects for advancement and too little income to cover essential expenses like housing, food and health care.The pandemic focused attention on many of these low-wage workers, who showed up to deliver food, clean hospital rooms and operate cash registers. “The pandemic put their lives at risk,” Ms. Blau said, “and we began to wonder if we are adequately remunerating a lot of the core labor we need to function as an economy and society.”Many economists are skeptical that enhanced jobless benefits have played an outsize role in the hiring squeeze.Whitney Curtis for The New York TimesWorkers at a St. Louis restaurant. In recent decades, a declining share of the country’s wealth and productivity gains has gone to labor.Whitney Curtis for The New York TimesTerri Waters, who showed up at the job fair in search of a high-level marketing job, said she had a greater appreciation for the work done by many low-wage earners. Her marketing business dried up when the pandemic hit, and while job-hunting, she has been working at a natural-food store for $11.50 an hour.“It’s really demanding work, you’re on your feet and by the end of the day you’re tired and sore,” Ms. Waters said. She understood why many job hunters were demanding more. “It’s not that people are being lazy,” she said. “They just want something better to go back to.”Hundreds of jobs were being offered at the fair. A home health care agency wanted to hire aides for $10.30 an hour, the state’s minimum, to care for disabled children or mentally impaired adults. There were no benefits, and you would need a car to get from job to job. An ice rink, concert and entertainment center was looking for 80 people, paying $10.30 to $11.50 for customer service representatives and $13 for supervisors. But the jobs last just through the busy season, a few months at time, and the schedules, which often begin at 5 a.m., change from week to week.In St. Louis, a single person needs to earn $14 an hour to cover basic expenses at a minimum standard, according to M.I.T.’s living-wage calculator. Add a child, and the needed wage rises just above $30. Two adults working with two children would each have to earn roughly $21 an hour.The Biden administration has made clear that it seeks to tilt bargaining power toward workers. At the core of the president’s economic model, said Jared Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, “is the view that workers too often lack the necessary bargaining clout to claim their fair share of growth that they themselves are helping to produce.”In recent decades, a declining share of the country’s income and its productivity gains has gone to workers. And for adults without a four-year college degree, the options are especially bleak. From 1974 to 2018, for example, real wages for men with only a high school diploma declined by 7 percent. For those without that diploma, wages fell by 18 percent.For most of the last 40 years, less than full employment has tended to give employers the advantage. As it becomes harder to find qualified candidates, though, employers are often slow to adjust expectations.Among job seekers interviewed at job fairs and employment agencies in the St. Louis area the week after the benefit cutoff, higher pay and better conditions were cited as their primary motivations. Of 40 people interviewed, only one — a longtime manager who had recently been laid off — had been receiving unemployment benefits. (The maximum weekly benefit in Missouri is $320.)In St. Louis, the Element Hotel held a job fair to hire servers, bartenders and front-desk receptionists. Housekeepers were especially in demand. Janessa Corpuz, the general manager, had come in on a Sunday with her teenage daughter to do laundry because of the shortage.The hotel, which is on a major bus line, raised its starting wage to $13.50 an hour, the second increase in two months. It also offers benefits and a $50-a-month transportation allowance. The number of applicants shot up — to 40 from a handful the previous month — after the second wage increase.The search for higher pay and better conditions attracted people to a job fair held by the Element Hotel in St. Louis.Whitney Curtis for The New York TimesShaleece Carter, 27, had a housekeeping job at another hotel, but it was near the airport, and her two-bus commute took two hours each way on a good day, compared with 25 minutes by car. One Saturday, when buses tend to be more irregular, she left her job at 4 p.m. but didn’t get home until 8 p.m. “That was it,” she said.She got an offer on the spot and took it.Justin Johnson, too, already had a job when he showed up at an Express Employment Professionals office. He was working at a pet feed company, earning $14 an hour to shovel piles of mud or oats. But that week temperatures topped 90 degrees every day and were heading past 100.“The supervisor pushed people too hard,” Mr. Johnson said. He had to bring his own water, and if it was a slow day, he got sent home early, without pay for the lost hours.He accepted an offer to begin work the next day at a bottle packaging plant, earning $16.50.Amy Barber Terschluse, the owner of three Express franchises in St. Louis, handles mostly manufacturing, distribution and administrative jobs. Wages, hours and a short commute are what matter most to job seekers, she said, and few would work for less than $14 an hour.Ms. Terschluse said she had also had to educate employers, who have gotten used to low wages and the ability to dictate schedules and other conditions.Some employers, she said, have also gotten into “a vicious cycle of replace, replace, replace.”In industries like hospitality and warehousing, annual turnover rates can surpass 100 percent, which can pare overall growth. Mary C. Daly, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said good job matches between employers and workers produced the most productivity and engagement.A dynamic labor market is one where the two sides negotiate over compensation, Ms. Daly said. If jobless benefits allow people to be a little more choosy because they are not destitute, she said, then “I, as an economist, predict that will be better for job matches and a better economy in the long run.” More

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    Survey Finds Support for Halting Federal Unemployment Benefits

    A slim majority of Americans say it is time for enhanced unemployment benefits to end.The federal government is providing jobless workers with $300 a week in benefits on top of their regular unemployment payments. Those benefits are set to last until September, although 26 states — all but one led by Republicans — have cut them off early or plan to do so in coming weeks.Critics, including many business owners and Republican politicians, argue that the extra benefits are discouraging people from looking for jobs and making it hard for businesses to find workers. Proponents, including progressive groups and many Democratic politicians, contend that the benefits are needed as the economy continues to heal and while pandemic-related risks remain.Republican arguments seem to be resonating with the public. Just over half of Americans — 52 percent — want the extra benefits to end immediately, according to a survey of 2,600 adults conducted this month for The New York Times by the online research firm Momentive, which was previously known as SurveyMonkey. Another 30 percent want the benefits to end in September as planned. Only 16 percent want the additional benefits to continue indefinitely.Views on the benefits are divided along partisan lines. Of Republicans, 80 percent want the extra benefits to end right away, compared with 27 percent of Democrats. But even among Democrats, most respondents don’t want the benefits to last past September.The survey also asked respondents who weren’t working what was keeping them off the job. Thirty-three percent said they were looking for jobs but “have not been able to find one that is worth taking,” and another 11 percent said they did not feel safe returning to work. Respondents volunteered a range of other explanations, including:“I don’t want to wear a mask and I don’t plan to be vaccinated.”“I am just recently fully vaccinated and will begin driving for Lyft again next week.”“Child care and no luck on job search.”“Age. Companies look at my age and pass.”“Car broke down and no money to fix it.”The survey included 65 respondents who said they were currently receiving unemployment benefits. Asked how they would behave if their benefits were cut off, 17 said they would still not return to work. Most of the rest said they would take a job that paid less than they wanted, made them feel unsafe or offered poor hours or working conditions.As of early June, some 3.5 million people were receiving benefits in states that plan to end some or all of the emergency programs early. A handful of states, including Alabama, Indiana and Missouri, have already cut off extra payments; more than 700,000 people were receiving benefits in those states as of early June. More

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    State unemployment claims increased last week.

    Initial claims for state jobless benefits rose last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.The weekly figure was about 402,000, up 37,000 from the previous week. New claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally funded program for jobless freelancers, gig workers and others who do not ordinarily qualify for state benefits, totaled 118,000, up 47,000 from the prior week. The figures are not seasonally adjusted. (On a seasonally adjusted basis, state claims totaled 412,000, an increase of 37,000.)In four states — Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi and Missouri — it was the final week in which some or all federal pandemic unemployment benefits were paid, including a $300 supplement to other benefits. A total of 25 Republican-led states have announced plans to discontinue federal benefits this month or next, even though they are funded through September.New state claims remain high by historical standards but are one-half the level recorded in early February. The benefit filings, something of a proxy for layoffs, have receded as businesses return to fuller operations, particularly in hard-hit industries like leisure and hospitality. More

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    State Unemployment Claims Fall Below 400,000

    Initial claims for state jobless benefits declined last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.The weekly figure was about 367,000, a decrease of 58,000 from the previous week. New claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally funded program for jobless freelancers, gig workers and others who do not ordinarily qualify for state benefits, totaled 71,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the prior week. The figures are not seasonally adjusted. (On a seasonally adjusted basis, state claims totaled 376,000, a decline of 9,000.)It was the first time the weekly figure for initial state claims had fallen below 400,000 since the outset of the pandemic.New state claims remain high by historical standards but are one-third the level recorded in early January. The benefit filings, something of a proxy for layoffs, have receded as businesses return to fuller operations, particularly in hard-hit industries like leisure and hospitality. More

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    Federal Unemployment Aid Is Now a Political Lightning Rod

    Republican-led states are cutting off relief months ahead of schedule, citing openings aplenty. Some jobless workers face hardships and tough choices.Of the more than four million people whose jobless benefits are going to be cut off in the next few weeks, Bre Starr will be among the first.That’s because Ms. Starr — a 34-year-old pizza delivery driver who has been out of work for more than a year — lives in Iowa, where the governor has decided to withdraw from all federal pandemic-related jobless assistance next Saturday.Iowa is one of 25 states, all led by Republicans, that have recently decided to halt some or all emergency benefits months ahead of schedule. With a Labor Department report on Friday showing that job growth fell below expectations for the second month in a row, Republicans stepped up their argument that pandemic jobless relief is hindering the recovery.The assistance, renewed in March and funded through Sept. 6, doesn’t cost the states anything. But business owners and managers have argued that the income, which enabled people to pay rent and stock refrigerators when much of the economy shut down, is now dissuading them from applying for jobs.“Now that our businesses and schools have reopened, these payments are discouraging people from returning to work,” Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa said in announcing the cutoff. “We have more jobs available than unemployed people.”While the governor complains that people aren’t returning to work soon enough, however, some Iowans respond that they are being forced to return too soon.“I’m a Type 1 diabetic, so it’s really important for me to stay safe from getting Covid,” Ms. Starr said, explaining that she was more prone to infection. “I know that for myself and other people who are high risk, we cannot risk going back into the work force until everything is good again.”But just what does “good again” mean?Covid-19 cases have been declining in Iowa as they have throughout the country, and deaths are at their lowest levels since last summer. State restrictions were lifted in February, businesses are reopening, and Iowa’s unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in April, the latest period for which state figures are available — much lower than the national 6.1 percent that month. (Unemployment rates in the 25 states that are cutting off benefits ranged from 2.8 percent to 6.7 percent.)Still, an average of 15,000 new cases and more than 400 related deaths are being reported daily across the country, and barely 40 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.Most economists say there is no clear, single explanation yet for the difficulty that some employers are having in hiring. Government relief may play a role in some cases, but so could a lack of child care, continuing fears about infection, paltry wages, difficult working conditions and normal delays associated with reopening a mammoth economy.The particular complaints that government benefits are sapping the desire to work have, nonetheless, struck a chord among Republican political leaders.In Ms. Starr’s case, Ms. Reynolds’s move to end federal jobless relief in Iowa is likely to have its intended effect.Ms. Starr can be counted among the long-term unemployed. She has relied on a mix of pandemic-related benefits since last spring, when she left her job as a delivery driver for Domino’s Pizza after co-workers started getting ill.She could probably have already gotten her job back; Domino’s in Des Moines is advertising for drivers. But Ms. Starr has been reluctant to apply.“A lot of people in Iowa don’t wear masks — they think that Covid is fake,” said Ms. Starr, who worries not only about her own susceptibility to infection but also about the health of her 71-year-old father, whom she helps care for: He has emphysema, diabetes and heart troubles.An early withdrawal from the federal government’s network of jobless relief programs affects everyone in the state who collects unemployment insurance. Ms. Starr, like all recipients, will lose a weekly $300 federal stipend that was designed to supplement jobless benefits, which generally replace a fraction of someone’s previous wage. In most of the states, the decision will also end Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which covers freelancers, part-timers and self-employed workers who are not normally eligible for unemployment insurance. And it will halt Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which continues paying people who have exhausted their regular allotment.In addition to the $300 supplement, Ms. Starr gets $172 a week in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. The total is about $230 less than she earned at her previous job. The government checks pay for her rent, food and some of her father’s medicine, she said.Ms. Starr, who is vaccinated, said the governor’s order would probably force her to go back to work despite her health fears. She is thinking about some kind of customer service job from her home, although that would require her to buy a laptop and maybe get landline telephone service, she said. Absent that, she said, she may have to take another delivery job or work in an office.Whether her case is evidence that ending jobless benefits early makes sense depends on one’s perspective.A brewery in Phoenix. As local economies flicker back to life, federal emergency benefits have prompted a debate over whether pandemic jobless relief is helping or hindering the recovery.Juan Arredondo for The New York TimesIn many cases, the problem is not that people don’t want to work, said Jesse Rothstein, a professor of public policy and economics at the University of California, Berkeley. Rather, benefits give the jobless more options, he said, like an ability “to say no to things that maybe aren’t safe or aren’t good fits.”Mr. Rothstein, though, cautioned against drawing broad conclusions.“The reopening happened really quickly,” he said. As a result, he said, it’s not surprising that there is friction in ramping up and hiring that could be unrelated to benefits. “It may just be that it takes a few weeks to reopen,” he added. “Some of the trouble employers are having in finding workers is that they all tried to find them the same day.”At the online job site Indeed, job searches in states that announced an early end to federal unemployment benefits picked up relative to the national trend. But the increase was modest — about 5 percent — and vanished a week later, said Jed Kolko, the chief economist for Indeed. And low-wage jobs weren’t the only ones to attract more responses; so did finance positions and openings for doctors.Aside from any discussion about the impact of jobless benefits on the labor market, economists have warned of long-lasting scars inflicted on the economy by the pandemic.“It’s important to remember we are not going back to the same economy,” the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, has said. “This will be a different economy.”“The real concern,” he said, “is that longer-term unemployment can allow people’s skills to atrophy, their connections to the labor market to dwindle, and they have a hard time getting back to work.”Roughly 41 percent of the nation’s 9.3 million unemployed fall into the long-term category, defined as more than 26 weeks. About 28 percent of the total have been unemployed for more than a year.Historically, this group, which is disproportionately made up of Black and older Americans, has had a tougher time getting hired. That pattern was likely to be repeated even in the unusual circumstances caused by the pandemic, said Carl Van Horn, the founding director of the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.Employers tend to take a negative view of people who have been out of work for an extended period or have gaps in their résumés, regardless of the reasons, Mr. Van Horn said.“Employers always complain about not being able to find the job seeker they want at that moment at the price they are willing to pay, whether it’s the best economy in 50 years or a terrible economy,” he said.The problem with prematurely ending jobless benefits, he said, is that “such a broad brush policy also punishes people who are also desperately looking for work.”That’s the situation that Amy Cabrera says she faces in Arizona. Since she was furloughed last summer, Ms. Cabrera, 45, has been living off about $500 a week in unemployment benefits, after taxes — roughly half the $50,000 salary in her previous job conducting audits in the meetings and events department at American Express.To make ends meet, she has given up the lease on her car and sublet a room in the house she rents in the San Tan Valley, southeast of Phoenix. “I’m paying for my food — whatever I need to survive — and that’s it,” she said, as she sat in the used 2006 Jeep she bought so she would not be carless. Food stamps are helping pay for her meals.But Ms. Cabrera rejected the idea that there were plenty of jobs to be had in Arizona, where the governor has moved to end the $300 federal supplement on July 10. Many positions she is qualified for, including executive administration and office management jobs, are paying $15 an hour, she said, far from enough to pay her $1,550 monthly rent and part of her son’s college tuition. Jobs in Phoenix or Tempe would require her to commute nearly two hours each way during rush hour. And because of a bad back, she can’t have a job that would require her to spend time on her feet.“I have desperately been looking for work,” Ms. Cabrera said. Still, of the roughly 100 jobs she estimated she had applied for, she has had only one interview.She said she didn’t know how she would live on her remaining unemployment benefits — $214 a week after taxes — when she loses the $300 supplement.“I really don’t have an answer for that yet,” she said. “I’ve really just been trying to roll with the punches.” More

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    Biden Says Enhanced Unemployment Benefits Will Expire Soon

    As Republicans blame enhanced unemployment insurance for slower-than-expected job gains, the White House stresses that the benefit will expire in September as planned.With fresh data showing that American employers added jobs at a decent but unexceptional pace in May, President Biden on Friday emphasized that his administration would not try to extend enhanced unemployment benefits that Republicans have criticized as a key factor in fueling a labor shortage.The extent to which the extra $300 in weekly jobless benefits may be keeping workers sidelined is unclear. Some economists say insufficient child care and health concerns may be the main drivers behind Americans not seeking jobs, while unemployment insurance and other pandemic-era policies are giving people the financial flexibility to choose to remain out of work.But the pace of hiring has been somewhat disappointing in recent months, and business complaints about worker shortages abound. The U.S. added 559,000 jobs in May, a solid number but one that fell short of analyst expectations of 675,000 jobs. The prior month was a more significant miss: Just 278,000 jobs were added at a time when analysts were expecting a million.The Biden administration on Friday celebrated the May job gains as a sign that the labor market is healing from the pandemic downturn and that its policies are working. But White House officials indicated they would not try to renew the enhanced jobless benefits, which expire in September, saying they were meant to be temporary.“It’s going to expire in 90 days,” Mr. Biden said, speaking in Rehoboth Beach, Del. “That makes sense.”At least 25 states have already moved to end the extra $300 beginning this month, a decision that Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Friday was completely within their purview. While the administration views the benefit as an “extra helping hand” for workers, some governors disagree and “that’s OK,” she said.“Every governor is going to make their own decision,” she said.The White House’s move to de-emphasize the benefit, which Democrats included in the $1.9 trillion economic relief bill that passed in March, risks angering progressives. But it could also help to shift the narrative toward the broader set of priorities the Biden administration hopes to pass in the months ahead, including a huge infrastructure plan.“This is progress — historic progress,” Mr. Biden said. “Progress that’s pulling our economy out of the worst crisis it’s been in in 100 years.”He added that the recovery was not going to be smooth — “we’re going to hit some bumps along the way” — and that further support that bolsters the economy for the longer term was needed.“Now’s the time to build on the foundation we’ve laid,” Mr. Biden said.Payrolls are still 7.6 million jobs below their prepandemic level. Economic officials, including those at the Federal Reserve, had been hoping for a series of strong labor market reports this spring as vaccinations spread and the economy reopens more fully from state and local lockdowns that were meant to contain the pandemic. In April, Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, pointed approvingly to the March jobs report, which had shown payrolls picking up by nearly a million positions.“We want to see a string of months like that,” he said.Instead, gains have proceeded unevenly. Job openings are high and wages are rising, suggesting that at least part of the disconnect comes from labor shortages. That is surprising at a time when the unemployment rate is officially 5.8 percent, and even higher after accounting for people who have dropped out of the labor market during the pandemic.Economists say many things could be driving the worker shortage — it takes time to reopen a large economy, and there is still a pandemic — but the trend has opened a line of attack for Republicans. They blame the enhanced unemployment benefits for discouraging people from returning to work and holding back what could be a faster recovery.“Long-term unemployment is higher than when the pandemic started, and labor force participation mirrors the stagnant 1970s,” Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a news release. “It’s time for President Biden to abandon his attack on American jobs, his tax increases, his anti-growth regulations and his obsession with more emergency spending and endless government checks.”Republican governors across the country have in recent weeks moved to end the supplemental unemployment benefits that began under President Donald J. Trump. The idea is that doing so will prod would-be workers back into jobs.A gas station near Rehoboth Beach offers incentives for new hires. Critics of the Biden administration say enhanced unemployment benefits are discouraging people from returning to work.Alyssa Schukar for The New York TimesMany progressives disagree with that assessment. Democratic leaders in Congress cited the latest employment report as a sign that lawmakers should move to enact the rest of Mr. Biden’s plans to invest in roads, water pipes, low-emission energy deployment, home health care, paid leave and a variety of other infrastructure and social programs — but also that the government should continue to support workers who remain on the sidelines.“The American people need all the support they can get, especially Black and Hispanic communities that were among the hardest hit by the pandemic,” Representative Donald S. Beyer Jr., Democrat of Virginia and the chairman of Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, said in a news release, urging lawmakers to “step up.”Fed officials, who are in charge of setting the stage for full employment and stable prices by guiding the cost of borrowing money, are likely to interpret the May report cautiously. The acceleration in job growth was good news, but the report also offered clear evidence that the labor market remains far from healed.“I view it as a solid employment report,” Loretta J. Mester, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, said on CNBC following the release. “But I’d like to see further progress.”The central bank is buying $120 billion in bonds each month and holding its main policy interest rate at near-zero, policies that keep borrowing cheap and help to stoke demand. Fed officials have said they would need to see “substantial” further progress toward their two goals — maximum employment and stable inflation — before beginning to remove monetary support by scaling down their bond buying program.Ms. Mester made clear that the May report did not reach that standard.“I would like to see a little bit more on the labor market to really see that we’re on track,” she said.Officials have an even higher hurdle for lifting interest rates: They want to see a return to full employment and signs that inflation is likely to stay above 2 percent for some time.Inflation has been moving higher this year, but Fed officials have said they expect much of the pop in prices to be temporary, caused by data quirks and a temporary mismatch as the economy reopens and demand outpaces supply.While the Fed is primarily in charge of controlling inflation, the Biden administration has also been reviewing supply chain issues and hoping to address some of them.Brian Deese, the director of the White House’s National Economic Council, said the administration had identified concrete steps and a long-term strategy to make supply chains for things like semiconductors more resilient. In other areas, like housing materials, the solution may involve convening private-sector actors to figure out a possible strategy.Ms. Psaki said the White House would talk about their plans “when we have more details to share, and hopefully that will be next week.” More

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    Unemployment claims continue to show labor market progress.

    Initial claims for state jobless benefits were little changed last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.The weekly figure was about 425,000, an increase of 6,000 from the previous week. New claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally funded program for jobless freelancers, gig workers and others who do not ordinarily qualify for state benefits, totaled 76,000, a decline of 17,000 from the prior week. The figures are not seasonally adjusted. (On a seasonally adjusted basis, state claims totaled 385,000, a decline of 20,000.)New state claims remain high by historical levels but are less than half the level recorded as recently as early February. The benefit filings, something of a proxy for layoffs, have receded as businesses return to fuller operations, particularly in hard-hit industries like leisure and hospitality.The government will provide a more complete look at the employment market on Friday, when the monthly jobs report for May is released. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg estimate that employers added about 655,000 positions in the month, the median forecast shows. More