Coronavirus resurgence a bigger worry than inflation - White House's Boushey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States is not at risk of a dangerous spell of inflation after a banner month of gains for workers, a top Biden economic official said on Friday, but the fast pace of business reopenings could cause a coronavirus resurgence.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to reporters as he holds his first formal news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 25, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis

“We must contain the virus in order to get the economy up and running, and people are seeing a lot more confidence,” said Heather Boushey, a member of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, after the administration ramped up vaccines and signed a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill.

“The question is are we moving too fast, too soon.”

A Labor Department report earlier on Friday showed the U.S. economy creating the most jobs in seven months in March, a report that could mark the start of the strongest economic performance this year in decades.

President Joe Biden’s administration aggressively pushed a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill through Congress in his first weeks in office and is working towards a goal to have enough vaccine in stock to cover all of the country’s adults by May.

A new plan from the administration released Wednesday would add more than $2 trillion in additional spending on infrastructure and other jobs over the coming 8 years.

Boushey said the administration has not yet produced its own estimate on how many jobs that effort would create because “it really does depend on how some of the details work out” as the administration negotiates with Congress. But she said a projection of the jobs that will be created will come “in the not-too-distant future.”

Biden said Friday some studies show it could create 19 million jobs.

There is little sign that administration policies are leading to the economy overheating, she said.

“We start to be concerned about inflation overheating if we have too many dollars chasing not enough stuff, and right now we still have an unemployment rate of 6%,” she said.

“There’s a lot of slack in the labor market still. We’re 8.4 million jobs fewer than where we were pre-pandemic.”

The administration remains cautious on whether states should be reopening as aggressively as they have been, warning governors that a spike in COVID-19 cases could ultimately derail the economy and the response to a pandemic that has killed more than half a million Americans.

Nonfarm payrolls surged by 916,000 jobs last month, the biggest gain since last August, with data for prior months revised higher than initial reports.

As of Tuesday morning, the United States had administered 147.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and most households were receiving $1,400 checks as a result of the stimulus bill Biden made his top priority on taking office in January.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Heather Timmons and Chizu Nomiyama