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As US economy slows, Biden resists recession label and touts ‘historically strong’ job market

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(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden on Thursday pointed to robust job growth and low unemployment that should, he argued, quell growing concerns of a financial downturn after it was announced that the economy contracted for a second consecutive quarter — meeting a common but unofficial definition for a recession.

Biden opened a meeting of business leaders in Washington by insisting the economy was still strong despite the back-to-back quarters of negative growth and that some contraction was expected after strong growth last year as the country emerged from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our job market remains historically strong. Our economy created more than 9 million jobs since I came to office, in no small part because of the people on this stage. Our economy created more than 1 million jobs in the second quarter, the same period as today’s GDP report covers, and our unemployment rate is 3.6% — near a record, historic low. Secondly, households and businesses, the engines of our economy, continue to move forward,” Biden said.

“Now, there’s no doubt we expect growth to be slower than last year and the rapid clip we had. But that’s consistent with the transition to a steady, stable growth and lower inflation,” he said, acknowledging that “there’s going to be a lot of chatter today on Wall Street and among pundits about whether we are in a recession.” Republicans, too, were quick to seize on the continued declines.

“But if you look at our job market, consumer spending, business investment, we see signs of economic progress in the second quarter as well,” Biden said.

His defensive campaign comes as Republicans continue to hammer him on historically high inflation, which they linked to the slowdown.

“This is Joe Biden’s recession. Biden can lie and deflect blame all he wants, but that will not alleviate the pain Americans feel every time they fill up their gas tanks, go grocery shopping, check their retirement savings, or balance their budgets. Biden and Democrats are responsible for our shrinking economy, and they’re only trying to make it worse,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.

The administration has ramped up a messaging effort to convince the public that the country has not entered a recession, noting that the U.S. has added 2.7 million jobs this year and consumer spending has continued to rise despite biting inflation, which the Federal Reserve aims to cool through interest rate hikes without setting off broader economic shockwaves.

Biden on Thursday also touted two pieces of legislation making their way through Congress that he says will relieve inflationary pressures.

During his meeting, the House passed the CHIPS and Science Act, which will provide an infusion of funds for the domestic chip manufacturing industry. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also announced a deal on Wednesday on legislation that would lower prescription drug costs, fight climate change and implement a 15% minimum tax on corporations.

“Both of these bills are going to help the economy continue to grow, bring down inflation and make sure we aren’t giving up on all the significant progress we made in the last year,” Biden said.

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