WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Many Americans are still struggling to return to work after the coronavirus pandemic and last week’s lower-than-expected jobs numbers were a reflection of that, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Sunday.
“I think we have a long way to go to recover from the pandemic,” Raimondo said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” program. “There are so many Americans still struggling” and 8 million fewer jobs than there were before the pandemic, she said.
U.S. job growth unexpectedly slowed last month, likely restrained by shortages of workers and raw materials. Nonfarm payrolls increased by only 266,000 jobs, well below the nearly 1 million jobs economists expected and a sharp contrast to steady increases in growth from January to March.
“We are making bold moves, but there’s a long way to go and we have to be there to help Americans find jobs,” Raimondo said of efforts by the administration of President Joe Biden, a Democrat, to boost the economy.
Women have been particularly hard-hit during the pandemic as many are clustered in industries hit hardest – lower-skilled service jobs, she said. Lack of affordable child care also hits women hard, and with schools closed their choices were curtailed further.
Raimondo rejected some Republicans’ contention that people are reluctant to return to work because they are receiving unemployment insurance, saying nothing in the data suggests that.
“The number one reason now that people aren’t going back to work is what you said: fear. Or if they can’t find childcare or schools are still closed,” Raimondo said.
Raimondo said on Friday that the shortage in semiconductors was a factor in April’s jobs report and on Sunday she said she was focused on finding ways to produce them in the United States to avoid similar supply disruptions in the future.
Biden’s jobs package calls for a $50 billion investment into the supply chain to make the country less vulnerable, she said.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu; editing by Grant McCool
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