Roundup: Trump, Biden trade blame as pandemic continues to affect recovery of U.S. labor market

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Publish Time: 2020-10-24 Author: From: Xinhua

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday night blamed each other's party for failing to reach a COVID-19 relief deal, as the two faced off in the final presidential debate before Election Day.

"Nancy Pelosi doesn't want to approve anything, because she'd love to have some victories on a date called Nov. 3," Trump said in the debate, accusing the House speaker of rejecting a deal for political reasons.

In response, Biden argued that it was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who said he does not have enough Republican votes to pass the relief bill. "Why isn't he (the president) talking to his Republican friends?"

One of the sticking points in the relief package negotiations is more federal funding for state and local governments, an issue sparking a fierce exchange at the debate.

Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, noted that the House passed a bill a few months ago which would provide aid for financially struggling state and local governments, among other things, but has not gained support from Republicans. He was referring to a 3-trillion-U.S.-dollar relief package approved by the House, which is held by Democrats, in May.

"Mitch McConnell said, let them go bankrupt. Let them go bankrupt. Come on. What's the matter with these guys?" Biden said.

Trump, however, said the bill approved in the House was a "bailout" for states and cities "badly run" by Democrats, adding it will also offer money to people who have entered the country illegally.

"This was a way of spending on things that had nothing to do with COVID," the president said.

Biden, in response, said, "I don't see red states and blue states. What I see is American, United States."

The extra 600-dollar weekly unemployment benefits from the federal government, as well as some other relief measures approved by Congress in late March, expired at the end of July, but Congress and the White House remain deadlocked over the next round of a COVID-19 relief bill.

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have held a few talks over the issue this week, but major differences remain.

Drew Hammill, Pelosi's spokesman and deputy chief of staff, said a conversation between the two sides Tuesday "provided more clarity and common ground as they move closer to an agreement."

They have made progress on providing a national strategic testing and contract tracing plan, but key sticking points remain, including more aid to state and local governments, demanded by Democrats, and liability protections for businesses, sought by Republicans.

As the two parties remain mired in an impasse, the pandemic continues to inflict havoc on the U.S. labor market, which is recovering at a slowing pace.

The number of people continuing to collect regular state unemployment benefits in the week ending Oct. 10 decreased by 1 million to 8.37 million, according to a report by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on Thursday.

The House, however, noted that the drop comes as workers are exhausting those benefits. Workers in most states are eligible for up to 26 weeks of benefits from the regular state unemployment program.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs -- state and federal combined -- for the week ending Oct. 3 declined by 1 million yet remained elevated at 23.15 million, indicating the pandemic's severe disruption to the labor market.

U.S. employers added 661,000 jobs in September, the smallest hiring gain since the labor market started to recover in May, the BLS reported earlier.

The House noted that since the September survey week for monthly job reports, initial claims have fallen 79,000 and suggest the labor market's recovery remains intact, but "the pace continues to slow."

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