South Court Auditorium
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
12:53 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, folks. Good afternoon, everyone. Today, for the first time since March of 2020, the American unemployment rate is below 5 percent. In just eight months since I became President, in the midst of a grave public health and economic crisis, the unemployment rate is now down below 5 percent — at 4.8 percent. Let me just repeat that: Today’s report has the unemployment rate down to 4.8 percent, a significant improvement from when I took office and a sign that our recovery is moving forward even in the face of a COVID pandemic.
That improvement was widespread: Unemployment for Hispanic workers was down, and the unemployment rate for African Americans fell almost a full percent — and it’s now below 8 percent for the first time in 17 months. A drop of 496,000 in long-term unemployment is the second-largest single-month drop since we started keeping records. The largest was in July.
So, in the past three months, we’ve seen a drop of 1.3 million long-term unemployed. That’s the largest three-month fall in long-term unemployment since we started keeping records in 1948. More to do, but great progress.
And working Americans are seeing their paychecks go up as well. In September, we saw one of the largest increases in average wages paid to workers on — of working Americans on record.
Today’s report comes one day after the Labor Department found, in the third quarter of this year, the number of layoffs and job reductions was the lowest in this country since 1997.
Overall, the unemployment report shows that almost 200,000 jobs were created last month — over 300,000 in the private sector and 26,000 in manufacturing — offset by some seasonal adjustments in education hiring.
The monthly totals bounce around, but if you take a look at the trend, it’s solid. On average, 600,000 new jobs created every month since I took office. And in three months before I got there, that was one tenth of what was being created. It’s 60- — the 60,000, as opposed to 600,000 jobs a month.
In total, the job creation in the first eight months of my administration is nearly 5 million jobs. Jobs up, wages up, unemployment down — that’s progress.
And it’s a tribute to the hard work and resilience of the American people who are battling through this pandemic, working to keep their businesses afloat.
Remember, today’s report is based on a survey that was taken during the week of September the 13th — not today, September the 13th — when COVID cases were averaging more than 150,000 per day. Since then, we’ve seen the daily cases fall by more than one third, and they’re continuing to trend down. We’re continuing to make progress.
Right now, things in Washington, as you all know, are awfully noisy. Turn on the news and every conversation is a confrontation, every disagreement is a crisis.
But when you take a step back and look at what’s happening, we’re actually making real progress. Maybe it doesn’t seem fast enough. I’d like to see it faster, and we’re going to make it faster. But, maybe it doesn’t appear dramatic enough. But I too would like to, as I said, move it faster. We’re making consistent, steady progress, though.
And thanks to bipartisan agreements, we’re making progress on funding the government and raising the debt limit so people continue to get their Social Security checks, the military continues to get paid, and so much more.
We’re making real progress on COVID-19 as well. More than 186 million Americans are now fully vaccinated. More than 75 percent of eligible Americans have gotten at least one shot. And COVID cases are down 40 percent in the past month. Hospitalizations are down over 25 percent.
In July, when I announced the first vaccination requirement, about 95 million eligible Americans still had not been vaccinated. Today, we’ve reduced that from 95- to 67 million eligible Americans that haven’t been vaccinated. That’s still much too much. There’s more work to do, including getting more people vaccinated, but we continue to make progress. Progress.
And the American Rescue Plan, which we passed shortly after I was elected — we’ve made progress providing rent and mortgage relief to help keep roofs over people’s heads. We’ve provided checks in pockets and other benefits so families can put food on the table for their families. Hundreds of thousands of loans to help small businesses stay open and keep employments — employees on the job getting paid.
Today, towns and cities and states that were at risk of losing hundreds of thousands of jobs before because they didn’t have the budget to pay — we helped make their payroll for them, so they could keep teachers, police officers, firefighters, essential workers on the job.
Helping schools stay open with the equipment and resources needed to keep students and educators safe.
And we finally gave a tax break — I’ve been looking at this for a long time — to families with children, which, as I speak, is providing monthly checks for more than — more families with — for 60 million children — $300 per month for every child under the age of 7, $250 a month for every child under the age of 17 — keeping the tax cut — it’s a tax cut for these people — and cutting child poverty nearly in half — over 40 percent.
We’re making progress protecting our air and water as well and our natural lands. There’s much more to do. And I have more — I’ll have more to say about that later today.
The jobs numbers also remind us that we have important work ahead of us and important investments we need to make. America is still the largest economy in the world. We still have the most productive workers and the most innovative minds in the world, but we risk losing our edge as a nation if we don’t move.
Our infrastructure used to be the best in the world. Today, according to the World Economic Forum, the United States of America ranks 13th in the world — 13th — on infrastructure — roads, bridges, ports, et cetera.
We were among the first in the world to guarantee access to universal education back at the turn of the 20th century. Now, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development — catch this — ranks America 35 out of 37 major economies when it comes to investing in early childhood education as a percent of GDP. Thirty-five out of thirty-seven. On all these investments that fuel a strong economy, we’ve taken — we’ve taken our foot off the gas. And the world has taken notice, including our adversaries. And now they’re closing the gap.
Look, so it’s essential that we have to regain the momentum we’ve lost. As my wife says all the time — a professor, she is — any country that out-educates us is going to outcompete us. The work of our time is to prepare ourselves for it to be competitive to win the fast-changing 21st century global economy.
That’s why I proposed two critical pieces of legislation being debated here in Washington right now. One focuses on the investments we need to make in the physical infrastructure of America — roads, bridges, ports, et cetera. The second focus: on the investments we need to make in the American people to make us more competitive.
I know this is my legislation, and I feel strongly about it, but the people who have the most at stake are the American people. So, we need to stay focused on what these bills will mean to the people who are just looking for a little bit of breathing room, a fair chance to build a decent, middle-class life to succeed and thrive instead of just hanging on by their fingernails. We need to keep an eye — an eye on what’s fundamentally at stake for our country: the ability to compete and win the race of the 21st century, as we did the 20th century — a race that other countries are doing everything they can to win.
In recent years, China has spent around three times as much on infrastructure — three times as much — as a share of its economy than the United States has. Our infrastructure bill makes investments we need to rebuild the arteries of our economy: the roads, the highways, the bridges, the ports, the airports, the rail. And we’re — going to allow us to replace lead water pipes, which are poisoning our children and families — it’s ridiculous; build a modern energy grid that can withstand storms and carry new renewable energy across America; make high-speed Internet affordable and available to everywhere in America and create good union jobs in the process of putting that together.
We’re going to make the largest investment of public transit in American history. And we’re going to make the most important investments on our rail since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago.
But it isn’t enough just to invest in our physical infrastructure. We’re going to lead the world like we used to. If we’re going to do that, we also have to invest in our people. That’s what my second bill does — the Build Back Better plan. That’s what it does.
Today, only about half of the three- and four-year-olds in America are enrolled in early child education — early childhood education. In Germany, France, the UK, Latvia, that number is more than 90 percent. We’re falling behind.
It’s not just early education. According to one study, America ranks — catch this — America ranks 33rd out of the 44 advanced economies when it comes to the percentage of our young people who have attained a post-high-school degree. The United States — 33rd out of 44?
My Build Back plan — Build Back Better plan gets us back on track to making four additional years of public education available for every person in America: two years of high-quality preschool on the front end, which indicates that over 56 percent of the children will be able to go through all 12 years and beyond without any — any interruption; and investments in community college so our students can gain the skills they need and carve out a piece — a place for themselves in the 21st century economy.
We’re going to help build families, and we’re going to help them afford to care for their new baby, a child, an elderly relative. It’s going to extend the tax credit for families with children.
It’s going to help us meet the moment on climate change and become a global leader in the fast-growing clean energy industries, like solar and wind power.
The whole world knows that the future of the auto industry is electric — electric — and battery technology.
We need to make sure America builds that future instead of falling behind. We should build those vehicles and the batteries that go into them and the charging stations they’re going to need — the 500,000 we’re going to build across America. Here, in the United States, we should be doing this.
And look, if we get this done, we’re going to breathe new life into our economy and our workforce, and we’re going to breathe cleaner air at the same time.
These are the kinds of investments that will get America back in the game and give our workers a chance — a fighting chance.
Economists left, right, and center agree. Earlier this year, Moody’s and Wall Street projected that the investments in these bills will bring us a higher GDP, an additional 2 million jobs per year, and lower unemployment.
These bills are not about left versus right, or modern [moderate] versus progressive, or anything else that pits Americans against one another.
These bills are about competitiveness versus complacency — competitiveness versus complacency; opportunity versus decay. They’re about leading the world or whether we’re going to let the world pass us by.
The American people understand what’s at stake here. They understand that when workers and families have a better shot, America has a better shot.
Given half a chance, the American people have never, never, ever, ever let their country down.
Today, we received more evidence of the progress we’re making. And I know we can make a lot more in the days ahead.
I want to thank you. And God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you very much.
1:06 P.M. EDT
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