On The Money — Strong job market barely cooled off in May

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Despite rising recession fears, jobseekers did well for themselves in May. We’ll also look at a potential decline in gas prices and new questions over the future of a cap on insulin costs.

But first, find out why the White House is ditching Norman Rockwell paintings.

Welcome to On The Money, your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line. For The Hill, we’re Sylvan LaneAris Folley and Karl Evers-Hillstrom. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Job openings, quits rate fell slightly in May

Job openings fell slightly in May as demand for workers remained near record highs, according to data released Wednesday by the Labor Department, even amid growing concerns of a potential recession.

  • The number of open jobs listed in the U.S. on the final business day of May totaled 11.3 million, dropping from 11.7 million in April after seasonal adjustments.  

  • Though job openings fell in May, hires, layoffs and quits stayed roughly even with their April numbers, according to the May Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report.

The background: The JOLTS report showed a labor market still stacked strongly for workers in May, a month when the U.S. added 390,000 jobs and saw the jobless rate hold strong at 3.6 percent.

  • Despite the decline in job openings, there were still almost two open gigs for each unemployed American. 

  • That mismatch can give workers many opportunities to find new jobs with better compensation and career opportunities than their current ones.

“This is not what a recession looks like. The May 2022 JOLTS data obviously lags what’s happening in the labor market presently, but all signs are that it remains strong,” wrote Nick Bunker, research director at Indeed.com, in a Wednesday analysis.

Sylvan has more here

RELIEF AT THE PUMP?

US on ‘cusp’ of falling gas prices

Gasoline futures fell more than 10 percent Tuesday and since June are down more than 22 percent, raising hopes that the high price of gas across the country might soon fall.

The price of U.S. crude oil fell more than 8 percent and international benchmark Brent crude fell nearly 10 percent on Tuesday.

“We’re on the cusp of seeing more savings,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at gas price tracking site GasBuddy. “I’m trying to be a little bit optimistic here that this relief could make its entire way to the pump in the weeks ahead.”

  • The price of U.S. crude oil was hovering around $98 per barrel on Wednesday afternoon, down from about $108 late last week, while Brent crude fell by $10. 

  • Experts say the current benchmarks should translate to a 12 percent reduction in the price customers pay at the pump.  

  • Experts say the decline isn’t due to any real changes on the supply side but rather to consumers scaling back their expenses and pulling down the expectation of demand.

Tobias Burns and Rachel Frazin have more here.

NO CAP

Democratic drug pricing bill removes insulin cost cap amid bipartisan push

Senate Democrats’ latest bill to lower prescription drug prices removes a provision to cap patients’ insulin costs at $35 per month, legislation that comes amid a push for a separate bipartisan bill on insulin.

Capping out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35 per month has been a high-profile selling point for Democrats’ economic package and has been touted by President Biden, so removing it carries some risk.

  • The provision is part of a separate bipartisan bill from Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), which is moving forward and could get a vote in the Senate this month. 

  • But the Shaheen-Collins bill will require support from at least 10 Republican senators in order to clear a filibuster and pass. By contrast, the Democratic-only drug pricing measure is part of Biden’s economic package, which uses a process known as reconciliation to bypass a GOP filibuster, meaning it can pass with only 50 Democratic votes.

Read more here from The Hill’s Peter Sullivan.

OUT WITH THE OLD

Biden administration unveils sweeping changes to federal student loan system

The Biden administration on Wednesday announced several new proposed changes to the federal student loan system, including measures that help discharge loans for physically and mentally disabled borrowers, limit interest capitalization rates, and help borrowers working as public service employees to earn forgiveness on their loans.

In a statement unveiling the proposed expansion of student loan discharge programs, the Department of Education said it expected to finalize a full plan by Nov. 1, with the aim to have the changes take effect no later than July 1.

  • Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in the statement that proposed changes “will protect borrowers and save them time, money, and frustration, and will hold their colleges responsible for wrongdoing.” 

  • The Biden administration has so far canceled nearly $26 billion for more than 1.3 million borrowers since taking office, much of which included loans obtained by borrowers who were defrauded by their college or had their school close down before they could complete their education.

The Hill’s Brad Dress has more on this here.

Good to Know

President Biden spent Wednesday afternoon in the key swing state of Ohio courting union workers, seeking to convince voters his policies are helping buttress the middle class as polls continue to show Americans souring on his handling of the economy.

Biden spoke to a packed crowd at Max S. Hayes High School in Cleveland to announce the final rule for implementing a program created by his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law to support struggling multiemployer pension plans so that union workers have more retirement security.

Here’s what else we have our eye on:

  • Mortgage applications sank for the second consecutive week even as rates dipped slightly amid fears of a looming recession. 

  • Democratic senators are putting pressure on the Biden administration to use its authority to deschedule cannabis, as a Senate proposal to legalize marijuana faces an uphill battle. 

  • Bans and restrictions on food exports are “counterproductive” against the global food crisis and drive rising domestic prices “even higher,” World Bank directors said Wednesday. 

  • The Biden administration is working on a plan that will allow foreign manufacturers of infant formula to keep their products on the market in the U.S. long term, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Wednesday.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Finance page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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