Biden promises more steps on delta as he blames variant for disappointing jobs report

President Joe Biden on Friday laid blame for the weaker-than-expected August jobs report squarely on the delta variant of the coronavirus, and said he’d lay out more steps next week to combat it.

The government on Friday reported just 235,000 jobs were created in August, far below economists’ expectations, with the small gain suggesting the rapid spread of the delta strain drove a lot of companies to temporarily freeze hiring plans.

Read: U.S. adds just 235,000 jobs in August as delta dents hiring

“There’s no question the delta variant is why today’s jobs report isn’t stronger,” said Biden at the White House. “I know people were looking, and I was hoping, for a higher number.” He said that next week he’d lay out “next steps” for fighting it, including how to protect schools and businesses from the strain’s threat.

Also see: ‘The delta wave clearly knocked down hiring’ — what economists are saying about the disappointing jobs report

The latest jobs figures come as congressional Democrats are pressing to get both a massive social-spending package and a separate infrastructure bill to Biden’s desk. But the effort by Democrats, who are aiming to wrap up that work this month, are being complicated by Sen. Joe Manchin’s call for what he described as a “strategic pause.” The centrist Democrat from West Virginia is a key vote in the 50-50 Senate.

Biden called the U.S.’s economic recovery “durable and strong,” but said the country isn’t yet where it needs to be. In addition to fighting the coronavirus, Biden said the infrastructure and social-spending plans are critical to the recovery and called on Congress to “finish the job” and pass his economic agenda.

U.S. stocks on Friday were mostly down modestly after the jobs data, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average

falling about 30 points and the S&P 500

off 2 points. The Nasdaq

rose about 19 points.

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