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Act aggressively to build on economic recovery

It’s no time to let up now.

A positive national jobs report released Friday showed an economy picking up steam as the recovery from the pandemic continues. Employers added 916,000 jobs in March, more than doubling the 416,000 number in February, the U.S. Department of Labor reported.

The job growth dropped the unemployment rate to 6%, an improvement from 6.2% in February. To put that in perspective, the unemployment rate hit nearly 15% a year ago when 22 million people lost jobs as commerce shut down to discourage the spread of the coronavirus.

At the federal and state level the response should be to keep pushing on the accelerator.

Even though during the administration of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden the nation saw gradual and steady job growth in recovering from the Great Recession, the Democratic leaders faced criticism from Republicans about the slow pace of the rebound.

Biden appears to have learned that lessons. In signing the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill and in now pushing for enactment of the “American Jobs Plan,” a proposed $2.3 trillion investment in infrastructure, Biden recognizes the opportunity to come out of the pandemic crisis with a stronger economy and one that pulls more lower-income families into the middle class and strengthens that middle class. He wants to go big. And the nation should.

The job growth noted in the March report came largely before the American Rescue Plan was fully rolled out, with its $1,400 checks, support for school reopening, and its investment to pick up the pace of the vaccination rollout. The economy should continue to grow.

Meanwhile, more than 2 million people are now being vaccinated daily. About one in four adults have received vaccines. While the threat of COVID-19 spread remains, and is aggravated by the circulation of more contagious mutations, the growing number of vaccinated adults should help avoid another spike in infections. Americans can further reduce the threat to health and help a strong recovery by mask wearing and avoiding crowded situations until the threat abates, as Biden has recommended.

The Biden administration contends its proposed infrastructure package would create 19 million new jobs. It is difficult to test such a number, but what is beyond argument is that the investment is needed and that the job growth that results would be substantial. Increases in corporate taxation, cut during the Trump presidency, appears a reasonable way to pay for it, as Biden proposes. But if Republicans have better ideas, they should bring them to the table.

When it comes to the recovery, much work remains. The labor numbers showed unemployment for Black Americans at 9.6%, compared to 5.4% for white workers. And Federal Reserve calculations, which account for workers who may have dropped out of the market or were misclassified in the count, place the unemployment rate at 9%, down from 24% about a year ago, but still troublingly high.

The American Rescue Plan includes funding to expand access to childcare, which can particularly help those in low-income households to enter the workforce and seek job opportunities. It has extensive funding for workforce training to better match skills with opportunities.

In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont has introduced “An Act Concerning Workforce Development,” to assure state education and training programs are likewise directed towards giving residents the opportunity to access jobs in high-tech manufacturing, software development and other expanding fields. The legislature should support it.

When it comes to accelerating the recovery, an overly cautious approach is the far greater threat than being too aggressive.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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