The U.S. added just 266,000 new jobs last month, well below the 1 million forecast by Wall Street.
"I think we have a long way to go to recover from the pandemic. There are so many Americans still struggling. Eight million fewer jobs than there were pre-pandemic," Raimondo said during an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation." "We are working very hard. In fact, we had a meeting with the president on Friday, and that was his direction to us, which is we are making bold moves, but there's a long way to go and we have to be there to help Americans find jobs."
During an accelerated vaccine rate, trillions in government stimulus, and handling pandemic restrictions, businesses have had difficulty in onboarding new workers.
Companies have been keen to involve the refined unemployment benefits provided to workers during the pandemic; the $1.9 trillion stimulus package that President Biden signed into law in March increased unemployment aid by $300 a week through Sept 6, 2021 and included a third $1,400 payment for millions of Americans.
Raimondo said her team was "monitoring" whether such relief was negatively affecting the job market, but at this point, "there's nothing in the data which would suggest that that's the reason people are out of work."
"We have to remember that when the president moved to make this happen, this unemployment insurance has been a lifeline, a survival, you know, lifeline for so many Americans," the commerce secretary continued. "The number one reason now that people aren't going back to work is what you said: fear or if they can't find childcare or schools are still closed. So we'll monitor it as necessary. But right now, we don't think that's because people aren't able to go back to work."
South Carolina and Montana are nixing unemployment benefits, mentioning their impact on the workforce. And Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee, who is Raimondo’s successor, is pushing for legislation to provide people with the ability to keep some of the benefits if they go back to work.
"This is regional, and it's appropriate that governors in different regions would respond to what's going on in their regional labor market. But if you look nationally, wages aren't going up," Raimondo said. "People are still telling us the number one reason they're not going back to work is fear due to the virus. And more people were looking for work last month than the month before."