US president Joe Biden hailed better-than-expected jobs figures on Friday, as Americans prepared to celebrate the July 4th national holiday this weekend.
"Our economy is on the move and we've got Covid-19 on the run," Mr Biden said at a White House event to mark the news that 850,000 new jobs were created last month – a higher figure than had been expected.
The data was met with relief by the Biden administration which has come under pressure for its expansive fiscal policy, which critics say has disincentivised people from returning to work.
Mr Biden said the new job figures showed the “historic progress” that had been made in pulling the American economy out of its worst crisis in 100 years.
“Instead of workers competing with each other for jobs that are scarce, employers are competing with each other to attract workers,” he said, which gives employees the ability to demand higher wages and better treatment in the workplace.
But Mr Biden enters the holiday weekend missing his target to have 70 per cent of Americans inoculated with at least one shot of a Covid vaccine by July 4th. That target is expected to be reached in the coming weeks. There is also a disparity in take-up rates across the state, with 20 states plus Washington DC already passing the 70 per cent threshold.
Asked if he was worried that social gatherings this weekend could lead to Covid-19 outbreaks in parts of the country where vaccination rates are low, Mr Biden said he was concerned that unvaccinated people may spread the variant, but he added: “I am not concerned there is going to be a major outbreak.”
“To those of you who haven’t been vaccinated, it doesn’t hurt. It’s accessible. It is free. Don’t just think about yourself. Think about your family,” he said.
Mr Biden and his wife, Jill, are hosting a barbecue and fireworks display on the White House lawn this Independence Day for military workers, first responders and essential workers and their families.
Up to 1,000 people are expected to attend the outdoor event.
On Saturday the president will visit Michigan, while the first lady will travel to Maine and New Hampshire.
Last July 4th, the US was registering close to 50,000 new Covid cases a day; the average case rate is now approximately 13,000 a day, though the number has been on the rise over the last week, particularly in parts of the country with low vaccination rates. Numbers peaked in the US in January with 247,000 new cases a day.
About 25 per cent of all new cases are the highly transmissible Delta variant, while in some regions of the country, it represents about 50 per cent of new cases. "There are communities that are vulnerable and where we are now seeing surges in cases, and indeed also hospitalisations, due to what could be the spread of the Delta variant and low vaccination rates in these communities," said the director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Rochelle Walensky.
The US is expected to experience its busiest weekend of travel since the pandemic began this weekend as vaccinated Americans join friends and family across the country.