POLITICO Playbook PM: The Covid-laced jobs report – POLITICO – Politico


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BULLETIN — Mark your calendars: Speaker NANCY PELOSI has invited President JOE BIDEN to deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday, March 1. The letter

MAKING SENSE OF THE JOBS NUMBERS — Confusion is becoming an increasingly common theme of jobs-report days, with hopeful or encouraging economic trends almost always dampened by a dose of Covid-laced reality. It was no different today.

Here’s a breakdown of the mixed bag new jobs report:

THE GOOD: The U.S. unemployment rate fell from 4.2% to 3.9%, and the jobs reports for November and October were revised upwards. November’s job gain went from 210,000 to 249,000, and October’s went from 531,000 up to 648,000.

—Via AP’s Christopher Rugaber: “Indeed, despite the slight hiring gain reported by businesses, 651,000 more people said they were employed in December compared with November. Wages also rose sharply, a sign that companies are competing fiercely to fill their open jobs.”

— As WSJ’s Sarah Chaney Cambon put it, “though the [Omicron] variant has taken a toll on some businesses’ revenue, many employers are clinging to the workers they have as consumers continue to spend.”

THE BAD: U.S. employers added just 199,000 new jobs in December, marking “the weakest report of the year,” per NYT’s Sydney Ember and Jeanna Smialek. November saw an addition of 249,000 jobs. For the entire year, the average gain was 537,000 new jobs per month.

THE UGLY: “Slackening job growth was especially worrisome because the data released on Friday was collected in mid-December, before the pandemic’s latest wave,” Ember and Smialek write. “Economists are bracing for the surge in cases to further disrupt job growth in January and in the coming months, though it is too soon to say how it will affect the labor market in the longer term.”

But the murky picture wasn’t on display at the White House. “I think it’s a historic day,” Biden said, touting the sub-4% unemployment rate and wage gains.

It is “the sharpest one-year drop in unemployment in United States history,” Biden boasted. “The first time the unemployment rate has been under 4% in the first year of a presidential term in 50 years. [A] 3.9% unemployment rate years faster than experts said we would be able to do it. And we have added 6.4 million new jobs since January of last year. One year. … That's the most jobs in any calendar year by any president in history. … I would argue the Biden economic plan is working.”

Other highlights from Biden:

— On Republican claims that he’s out of touch: “Now, you hear Republicans say today that my talking about this strong record shows that I don’t understand. ‘A lot of people are still suffering,’ they say. Well, they are. Or that I'm not focused on inflation. Malarkey. They want to talk down the recovery because they voted against the legislation that made it happen.”

— On supply-chain issues around the holidays: “The much-predicted crisis didn’t occur. The Grinch did not steal Christmas,” Biden said, referencing a caricature of himself that critics deployed, before adding: “Nor any votes.”

— Taking a swipe at Trump: “By the way, the stock market — the last guy’s measure of everything — is about 20% higher than it was when my predecessor was there. It has hit record after record after record on my watch.”

— Responding to a shouted question of whether Covid-19 is “here to stay”: “I don't think Covid is here to stay. Having Covid in the environment and the world is probably here to stay, but Covid — as we’re dealing with it now — is not here to stay. … The new normal is not going to be what it is now. It’s going to be better.”

Good Friday afternoon.

THAT WAS QUICK — It didn’t take long for JAMAL SIMMONS, VP KAMALA HARRIS’ new comms director, to come under fire. In a pair of tweets from 2010 that were resurfaced today, Simmons said he “saw 2 undocumented folks talking on MSNBC” and questioned “Why wouldn’t ICE pick them up?” Tweet 1 Tweet 2

Simmons issued a statement this afternoon: “Sometimes I have been sarcastic, unclear, or just plainly missed the mark. I sincerely apologize for offending those who care as much as I do about making America the best, multi-ethnic, diverse democracy it can be.” The full statement, via our colleague Alex Thompson

FINALISTS EMERGE FOR RNC 2024 — Republican officials have narrowed down the options for where to hold the party’s 2024 national convention: Milwaukee, Nashville, Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City have made the shortlist, Alex Isenstadt scoops. “Party officials are planning to visit each of the locations over the coming months before finalizing a decision in the spring.” The case against Nashville and SLC: “Neither Republicans nor Democrats have gone outside a potential battleground for a convention city since 2004.”


RUSSIA LATEST — Ahead of next week’s meeting with Russian officials, the Biden administration is “ready to propose discussions on scaling back U.S. and Russian troop deployments and military exercises in Eastern Europe,” NBC’s Courtney Kube, Dan De Luce, Carol Lee and Andrea Mitchell report. “The discussions could potentially address the scope of military drills held by both powers, the number of U.S. troops stationed in the Baltic states and Poland, advance notice about the movement of forces, and Russia’s nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in the Russian territory of Kaliningrad between Poland and Lithuania, the sources said.”


SCOTUS WATCH — The Supreme Court convened for a special session this morning to consider a challenge to Biden’s vaccine mandates. According to Axios’ Sam Baker, the High Court seems skeptical: “The Supreme Court on Friday appeared likely to curtail the Biden administration’s most sweeping mandate for Covid-19 vaccinations. A majority of the justices seemed to believe that the Biden administration’s rules, which require employers to mandate vaccines or testing for the workers, are too broad.”

— Justice SONIA SOTOMAYOR participated virtually from her chambers, Bloomberg’s Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson reports. Two of the attorneys arguing against Biden’s mandate also appeared virtually after testing positive for the coronavirus.

THE TESTING NIGHTMARE — “As soaring demand makes lab-based and at-home tests hard to come by, many people are forsaking tests, leaving them unable to determine whether they are infected and potentially exposing others,” WSJ’s Christine Mai-Duc, Arian Campo-Flores and Valerie Bauerlein report. “Those who manage to get at-home rapid tests rarely report the results to health departments, often because the means to do so is cumbersome or nonexistent. As a result, public-health officials lack the full picture of the virus’s spread when the Omicron variant is raging.”

— So what’s contributing to the scarcity of tests and delays for results? David Lim writes that in some cases, “workforces are depleted by the very virus they’re surveying. … While the supply chain for once-scarce equipment like test kits and pipette tips remains intact, the sheer demand for testing is stretching sample collection sites and laboratory staff. One pharmacy industry source told POLITICO that lab staffing issues are already limiting testing capacity and turnaround times for testing done through major retail chains.”

FOR (OR SHOULD WE SAY, FOUR) YOUR RADAR — Moderna CEO STÉPHANE BANCEL said on Thursday that people are “likely to need a second booster dose in the fall, with front-line workers and people 50 and older a particular priority as antibody levels wane,” WaPo’s Andrew Jeong and Adela Suliman write.


HEATING HELP — The White House said today that it is “distributing an additional $4.5 billion in funds to help low-income Americans cover heating costs during a second pandemic winter, with cold-weather states receiving the largest share,” AP’s Ashraf Khalil reports.


INSIDE THE ADMIN’S CYBER OPERATION — Bloomberg’s Willaim Turton profiles ANNE NEUBERGER, a former NSA staffer caught in a “mounting tension within the Biden administration as different factions vie for control over” the administration’s cyber policy. Neuberger, who is now deputy national security adviser for Cyber and Emerging Technology, is “known as a brilliant tactician who can command a room and bend government bureaucracy to her will. But her relentless style has also made her a polarizing figure throughout her 14-year career in government. Neuberger had a particular tendency to butt heads with lawyers, say people who worked with her, an attribute that some of her NSA colleagues admired.”


WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE — The Daily Beast’s Ursula Perano writes: “There Are No More Frenemies in Congress. Just Enemies.” Take Reps. JARED HUFFMAN (D-Calif.) and PAUL GOSAR (R-Ariz.): The two used to be cordial, but “as time went on, Gosar went into an ‘irreversible downward spiral,’ Huffman said. And that’s made the California congressman reevaluate their relationship.” They’re not the only ones. “Once-genuine friendships have devolved into acknowledgment nods in hallways. Cordial relationships have fallen into outright disdain and distrust. And the two parties appear — both legislatively and personally — further apart than ever. The events of Jan. 6 and the noxious environment in Congress that followed are making repair unthinkable to many members.”

A SHARP TURNER — Rep. MIKE TURNER (R-Ohio) is the new top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, taking over now that DEVIN NUNES’ resignation from Congress is official. But while Nunes’ tenure atop the panel was defined by deep partisan tensions, Turner wants to change that. “The Ohioan hopes to repair cross-aisle relationships tattered by the panel’s politically charged investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and its subsequent prominence in Trump’s first impeachment,” Olivia Beavers and Andrew Desiderio write. “Reorienting the panel toward its original mission of empowering the intelligence community, however, requires Republicans to reckon with the lightning-rod status that current Chair Rep. ADAM SCHIFF (D-Calif.) maintains on the right.”


2022 WATCH — Senate Republicans hoping to retake control of the chamber are doing the math and waiting to see which borderline members will officially come back. CNN’s Alex Rogers and Manu Raju report that some in the conference are “growing bullish” that Sen. RON JOHNSON (R-Wis.) will run for reelection. “Johnson has been in no rush to publicly announce his decision, often saying that Senate campaigns are far too long and pointing out that he waited until May 2010 to announce his first bid for an election later that fall. … But in private conversations, Republicans are coming away with the distinct impression that Johnson will run again, according to multiple GOP sources, and would be surprised if he did not.”

CASH DASH — The fundraising totals for Q4 of 2021 are rolling in. Here’s what’s catching our attention:

— Sen. MARK KELLY (D-Ariz.) raised “nearly $9 million in the final three months of 2021,” reports CNN’s Dan Merica — a figure sets Kelly up to be one of the most well-funded Dems of the 2022 cycle. Kelly’s camp is expected to report more than $18.5 million in cash on hand.

— Rep. TIM RYAN (D-Ohio) raised $2.9 million in Q4. His campaign to replace retiring GOP Sen. ROB PORTMAN “enters 2022 with $5 million cash on hand,” Spectrum News’ Taylor Popielarz reports.

— Looking ahead, JEFF MILLER is co-hosting a fundraising dinner with CGCN, the powerful lobbying firm, for House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 19. The event will feature McCarthy along with every ranking member of a House committee, with requested contributions of $100,000 for hosts, $50,000 for co-hosts and $25,000 for attendees.

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES — HuffPost has uncovered a trove of financial records that shed light on ALEX JONES’ Infowars empire. “Despite his pleas for money, Infowars’ store ― where Jones sells an amalgamation of dietary supplements and survival gear ― made $165 million in sales from September 2015 to the end of 2018, according to court filings related to a lawsuit Jones recently lost over his lies about the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre,” HuffPost’s Sebastian Murdock reports. “The records, first obtained by HuffPost … provide a window into how vast and powerful Jones’ reach is and may provide clues into how he funds his political activities, including his participation in the U.S. Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021.” The records


BOOK CLUB — Former D.C. police officer Michael Fanone is co-writing a book titled “HOLD THE LINE” with Reuters’ John Shiffman, detailing Fanone’s “harrowing experience on January 6, 2021, when he was pulled from the U.S. Capitol into the mob, beaten and repeatedly tased, suffering a heart attack and brain damage.” The book will be published by Atria Books and is set for an October 2022 release.

DHS ARRIVAL LOUNGE — Kristie Canegallo is joining DHS as chief of staff. She most recently was VP for trust and safety at Google and is a DoD and George W. Bush and Obama NSC alum.

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