White House says US not in recession, lowering inflation 'number one' priority

The White House on Thursday looked to set the record straight on the state of the U.S. economy and said the U.S. is not in a recession.

“We are not in a recession. I want to be really, really clear on that,” White House chief of staff Ron Klain said in an MSNBC morning interview. 

Klain pointed to the U.S. labor market, which remains at a 53-year historical low, and said the Biden administration has “created more jobs in two years than any administration in history.”

White House chief of staff Ron Klain speaks with reporters at the U.S. Capitol following a meeting with Senate Democrats on Feb. 17, 2022. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images / Getty Images)

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Figures released in September show that unemployment in the U.S. hovered around 3.5%, the lowest rate reported since May 1969, though figures to be released on October unemployment rates are expected to climb slightly to 3.6%. 

Pre-pandemic unemployment rates in January and February 2020 also were 3.5%. 

By April 2020, jobless numbers had spiked to 14.7% in the greatest unemployment rate in post-World War II records, surpassing the previous record of 10.8% reported in November 1982 – the highest jobless rate since record-keeping began in 1948.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that unemployment had risen to 24.9% during the Great Depression in 1933.

A person passes the office of the California Employment Development Department in Sacramento on Dec. 18, 2020. (AP / AP Newsroom)

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Klain also pointed to the stock market as an indicator of how the U.S. economy is doing, which he described as “growing” and “strong.”

“The stock market just finished its biggest month in 40 years,” he said. “And even with a little bit fall back on the market yesterday, the market closed yesterday higher than any day, any one day of Donald Trump’s four-year presidency.”

But experts remain concerned over how the market will hold amid threats of a global recession and Klain acknowledged the strain that high inflation is having on American wallets. 

“Our mission… is to continue that kind of economic growth, continue the job creation, continue to move the economy forward and to tackle the biggest problem we have in the economy right now, frankly, which is inflation,” the White House spokesman said. 

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, June 16, 2022. (Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty Images / Getty Images)

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The Biden administration has renewed its focus on messaging how the economy is holding strong despite recession concerns, particularly as the midterms loom. 

“Bringing down prices of everyday things that really hit people hard – that’s the number one problem right now,” Klain said. “It’s inflation and that’s the problem we’re focused on.”

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