The immediate question many were asking after Tuesday’s economic report showed the U.S. economy added back fewer jobs back than hoped was what it meant for stimulus. Would the disappointing news move the two parties closer to a deal?
The immediate signals from the White House, at least publicly, have been no.
In November the U.S. economy added back the smallest number of jobs in seven months with the coronavirus pandemic continuing to pressure businesses as they wait for a vaccine at some point next year.
Joseph LaVorgna, chief economist of the National Economic Council, told Yahoo Finance that stimulus negotiations were proceeding, but “we don't believe the recovery at the moment is in jeopardy.”
Any assistance will he helpful but a new round of stimulus would be “an insurance policy,” he said.
Observers have grown more and more optimistic this week that some sort of larger stimulus deal is possible after the growing support in Congress around a $908 billion proposal put out by a bipartisan group of senators.
‘What we don't want to do is give money for sort of a grab bag wishlist’
But Larry Kudlow, the head of the National Economic Council, added to the sense that stimulus negotiators still had some distance to travel when he spoke to reporters Friday. According to a pool report, he reiterated the White House position that “targeted” relief was the answer.
Pressed whether it was critical that a bill be passed before the end of the year, he didn't directly answer and noted at one point that "there's about $600 billion of unspent money" from the CARES Act. "I'm not going to call it free money, but it really doesn't represent additional spending,” he said.
Kudlow also said the president remains critical of one of the main provisions that Democrats have been pushing for: sending money to struggling states. President Trump "doesn't want to deal with mismanaged states and localities,” he said.
The White House officials on Friday, as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this week, have focused on specific initiatives like extending the Paycheck Protection Program and giving aid to airlines.
“What we don't want to do is give money for sort of a grab bag wishlist project of the left,” LaVorgna said in his Yahoo Finance interview.
Trump offered no immediate comment on the jobs numbers. He tweeted about a variety of topics Friday, including his false election claims, his threat to veto the defense bill, and the Senate runoff race in Georgia.
‘A big deal’
LaVorgna discussed other elements of Friday’s economic report, including news that the unemployment rate fell to 6.7% from 6.9%, as a result of both the jobs gains and the fact that 400,000 people left the workforce last month.
“The unemployment rate is a big deal,” said Lavorgna, noting it’s “down 54% from where it was back in April, which is a stunning decline and we're seeing unemployment for really all the various groups, ethnic groups, men, women, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, African-Americans, all seeing lower unemployment.”
LaVorgna acknowledged that the overall payroll number “was a bit of a disappointment,” but “I wish more people talked about the positive instead of always focusing on the negatives.”
During a Fox News appearance Friday, Kudlow also acknowledged that the payroll number “may have come in a little less than expectations.”
Returning again to stimulus at the end of the interview, LaVorgna made no promises about a timeline. “Let's see what happens” he said.
Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.