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'Strikingly good news': President Biden takes a quick jobs report victory lap

U.S. job growth blew past expectations on Friday and President Joe Biden quickly jumped on the news.

In a speech from the White House Friday morning, the president called the report "strikingly good news that we just received," claiming his two years in office represent the strongest two years of job growth in history.

Friday's numbers showed growth of 517,000 jobs in January and a 3.4% unemployment rate, shocking observers who had expected growth of 188,000 jobs and a rate of 3.6%.

"This number jumped off the page when we saw it," Labor Secretary Marty Walsh added during a Yahoo Finance Live appearance Friday morning.

While some experts advised caution given that January data can often be unpredictable due to seasonal noise, the news was undoubtedly good for Biden and his fellow Democrats who sought to link the job gains to economic policy from Washington over the last two years.

"Put simply, I would argue that the Biden economic plan is working," Biden said in Friday's remarks. "These critics and cynics are wrong."

Also in Friday's report, average hourly wages rose by 0.3% for the month and 4.4% on an annual basis. The labor force participation rate also went up slightly to 62.4%, with many economists calling the development positive.

During his interview Friday, Secretary Walsh noted his own desire to get the participation rate even higher. He also touted the black unemployment rate, which stood at its second-lowest level since the metric was first recorded in the 1970s.

In the report, the unemployment rate for African Americans stood a 5.4% and also showed near-record lows for Asian Americans at 2.8% and Hispanic Americans at 4.5%.

From Republicans, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) seized upon the labor force participation numbers in his own statement calling them "still disappointingly below pre-pandemic levels" and arguing that Biden's economic policies and high spending were in fact weighing down the economy.

One warning sign Friday morning came as stocks sank shortly after the report's release on fears that the robust labor picture could push the Federal Reserve to keep its aggressive interest-rate hiking campaign going in the coming months. The Fed has raised interest rates eight times in the last year to tackle inflation in a move that had also been expected to sap the labor market.

 U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the economy and the January jobs report, during brief remarks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building's South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 3, 2023. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
President Biden speaks about the economy and the January jobs report during brief remarks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building's South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque) (Kevin Lamarque / reuters)

But in the meantime, Biden's ebullient tone was quickly echoed by other Democrats.

Rep. Brendan F. Boyle (D-PA), the Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, put out a statement within 18 minutes of the jobs report's release, lauding the "blockbuster" numbers, which he said showed the lowest unemployment rate since 1969.

"Democrats’ relentless focus on economic policies that put American workers and families first continues to pay off," he said in the statement.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) added that the report showed "American workers don’t need to be sacrificed to bring prices down." And an aide to Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) quipped on Twitter that Biden's speechwriters were "furiously editing the President’s address on the State of the Union to insert as many instances of 'THE LOWEST UNEMPLOYMENT RATE SINCE 1969' as they can make fit."

President Biden is set to travel to Capitol Hill on Tuesday evening to deliver the annual address.

"The state of the union and the state of our economy is strong" Biden said Friday in a preview of his remarks next week.

Ben Werschkul is Washington correspondent for Yahoo Finance.

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