PHILADELPHIA, Sept 4 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday singled out his 2024 rival Donald Trump in a Labor Day speech, aiming to shore up support in Pennsylvania, where the white man must win next year to retain the seat. House.
Biden, a self-described champion of unions, spoke to union workers in Philadelphia as he tried to explain his economic policies to a public worried about the economy despite high inflation and low unemployment.
“It wasn’t that long ago that we lost jobs in this country,” Biden said ahead of a parade marking the US Labor Day holiday. “In fact, the person who held the job before me was one of only two presidents in history to leave office with fewer jobs in America than when he was elected.”
U.S. unemployment has fallen since Trump took office in January 2017, and the jobs market has seen strong growth throughout much of his administration.
But unemployment rose sharply as Trump’s term came to an end amid a pandemic-driven economic downturn. Since January 2021, job growth has averaged 436,000 per month, now 4 million jobs in the U.S. above the pre-pandemic peak.
Earlier in the day, Biden weighed in on tensions between the United Auto Workers union and the Detroit Three automakers, telling reporters he thought the UAW was unlikely to strike when its current contract expires on Sept. 15.
It drew a response from union leadership after the National Labor Relations Board said on Friday it would investigate UAW claims that General Motors ( GM.N ) and Chrysler parent Stellantis ( STLAM.MI ) did not bargain in good faith. They refuse.
“I appreciate the president’s confidence and hope the Big Three will come to their senses and begin bargaining in good faith, but if they don’t we stand ready to do whatever is necessary on September 15th,” UAW President Sean Fine said in a statement.
Economic issues could play a major role in the 2024 presidential election, which could be a rematch between Democrat Biden and Republican former President Trump.
Part of Biden’s pitch to voters is the $1 trillion infrastructure act, which would help rebuild crumbling infrastructure by funneling money into projects built by union labor.
Pennsylvania is one of the few states considered politically competitive and could determine who wins the White House in 2024. The other states are Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll last month showed the economy, unemployment and jobs as Americans’ top concerns. The poll found that a full 60% of Americans, including one in three Democrats, disapprove of Biden’s handling of inflation.
The central bank’s preferred rate of inflation has fallen to 3.3% from a peak of 7% last summer. While the decline was a “welcome development,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said late last month that inflation was “too high” and interest rates should go higher.
Republicans and some economists say Democratic policies have helped fuel inflation, with Americans paying more for rent, groceries and gasoline under Biden’s watch. Economists say inflation has been fueled by the lifting of Covid-era restrictions and the subsequent revival of business activity.
Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Philadelphia and Jeff Mason in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware; Additional reporting by David Shepherdson in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone, Tomas Janowski and Cynthia Osterman
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Jeff Mason is a White House correspondent for Reuters. He has covered the presidencies of Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden, as well as the presidential campaigns of Biden, Trump, Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. He served as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association in 2016-2017, leading journalists in advocating for press freedom in the early days of the Trump administration. His and the WHCA’s work has been recognized by Deutsche Welle’s “Freedom of Speech Award”. Jeff has asked pointed questions of domestic and foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. He is the winner of the WHCA’s “Best in Presidential News Coverage under Deadline Pressure” award and co-winner of the Association for Business Journalists’ “Breaking News” award. Jeff began his career in Frankfurt, Germany before being posted. Brussels, Belgium, where he covers the European Union. Jeff appears regularly on television and radio and teaches political journalism at Georgetown University. He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Middle School of Journalism and a former Fulbright Scholar.