Biden economy hiccups as he calls for higher taxes

President Joe Biden arrives on Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, March 17, 2021, en route to Washington.

(The Center Square) – New unemployment claims spiked unexpectedly last week, suggesting that employers are continuing to let workers go despite rising vaccinations and renewed hope for the economy.

According to the seasonally adjusted data released Thursday, 744,000 Americans filed for unemployment in the week ending April 3, about 16,000 more than the previous week.

That number is more than three times the average unemployment claims before the pandemic hit last year.

The unemployment report comes one day after President Joe Biden made an impassioned plea for higher taxes to fund infrastructure spending. Secretary for the Department of Labor Marty Walsh focused on Biden’s infrastructure bill in the wake of the report’s release, saying on Twitter Thursday that Biden’s bill “will make a historic investment in our roads, bridges, rail, ports, airports and transit systems.

“This will create good paying jobs and advance equity by providing better transportation options to underserved communities,” he added.

Democrats will likely continue to push the infrastructure bill as a remedy to poor economic performance. Critics argue the proposed tax hikes needed to fund the infrastructure bill will cripple an economy struggling to recover from the pandemic.

The latest unemployment numbers are a disappointing marker after the latest jobs report suggested economic growth.

According to employment data released earlier this month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment dropped to 6 percent in March.

“The rate is down considerably from its recent high in April 2020 but is 2.5 percentage points higher than its pre-pandemic level in February 2020,” the BLS said in its report. “The number of unemployed persons, at 9.7 million, continued to trend down in March but is 4.0 million higher than in February 2020.”

Despite those promising numbers from last month, the unemployment data released Thursday reports more Americans seeking unemployment benefits, with some states faring better than others.

The highest insured unemployment rates as of March are in Nevada at 5.3 percent, Alaska and Pennsylvania both at 5 percent, Connecticut at 4.6 percent, and New York at 4.1 percent.

Kentucky, Georgia, Virginia, California and New York saw the most significant increases in unemployment claims near the end of March while Ohio, Massachusetts, Indiana, Florida and Michigan saw the biggest decreases.

“During the week ending March 20, 50 states reported 7,553,628 continued weekly claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits…” the unemployment report reads, marking a drop from the previous week.

The report adds that “states reported 5,633,595 continued claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits.“