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At This Hour

Biden Reacts To Economy Adding 311K Jobs In February; Manhattan Prosecutors Invite Trump To Appear Before Grand Jury; Eyes On Iowa: DeSantis Visits Today, Trump Heads There Monday. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 10, 2023 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. AT THIS HOUR, I'm Kate Bolduan. We are standing by to hear from President Biden. Any moment he's going to be coming out to address the latest jobs report out just this morning. Employers added 311,000 jobs in February. The unemployment rate ticked up to 3.6 percent.

That job -- those jobs gains are more than what many analysts expected and a sign still of a strong -- that strong hiring continues despite the ongoing efforts, of course, by the Federal Reserve to cool things off to tame inflation. Wall Street is reacting to this report. You can see right now. The stocks are down. Stocks are well, it's like mixed as we're looking at kind of stable in the moment.

Matt Egan and M.J. Lee are standing by for us. Joining us right now for a look at what this all means as we wait for the President. Matt, on the report, what stands out most to you?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Kate, it's amazing that the economy is still adding this many jobs, right, despite the Federal Reserve's war on inflation, despite all of the historic job gains already on the books, people are still getting hired at a rapid pace. So, 2 -- 311,000 jobs added in February. You know, this is how strong the jobs market is.

As you can see on the chart, hiring slowed significantly in February. And yet, it still came in at a very strong level, a level that was well above expectations. So no sign of a recession here at all. The unemployment rate, it did tick up to 3.6 percent. But remember, that is coming off of a 53-year low set in January, a massive improvement from that spike in early 2020 that you can see on your screen.

And one of the reasons that the employment rate went up is because more people are looking for work, which of course is a good thing. When you dig into the numbers, you can see that a lot of sectors are continuing to add workers rapidly. Leisure and hospitality, retail, health care, government, all of them adding jobs.

There was some job loss in construction and also in, I'm sorry, in transportation as well as information, information that is media and tech. We know about that. Now, everyone wants to know what does this jobs report mean in terms of whether or not the jobs market is overheating and what that means for inflation.

I think it's mixed here because on the hot side, hiring obviously was very strong. I think on the cooler side, we did see wage growth slowdown month over month and that should ease some of these fears from the Federal Reserve of a wage price spiral where high prices causes people to demand higher wages, which causes higher prices, it can become a negative feedback loop.

Still big picture, Kate, I do think that today's report keeps alive the risk that the Federal Reserve ends up going big again at its next meeting later this month with a 50-basis point rate hike.

BOLDUAN: All right, we'll stand by to stand by for that one. Matt, thank you.

M.J., what are you hearing from the White House on this morning and what are you expecting to hear from the President when he speaks any moment now?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, Kate, I can tell you that here at the White House, officials were hoping for a number that was more in the mid-200. As Matt laid out, this certainly beat expectations and outpaced expectations, but what they were able to avoid was a situation like back in January when we saw a whopping more than 500,000 jobs added. That was frankly shocking to even a lot of economists.

But look, I think what we can certainly expect the President to express is confidence and touting this as good news that there is really resilience in the U.S. economy and certainly talk about how much all of this is a sign that the U.S. economy has made so much progress, particularly since the peak of the pandemic. But as Matt was saying, you know, one of the reasons that the jobs report is so critical and important is because it is a data point that Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is watching so closely.

We just heard him earlier this week basically indicate that if we continue to see signs that the labor market is extremely hot, then yes, it is very possible that the central bank might go back to more aggressively raising rates. And of course, just goes without saying for this White House, the state of the economy and inflation in particular, now that is just one of the most important political issues for them and that is why they are watching all of this data coming in so very carefully.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, M.J. is going to stick with us. We're going to stand by, wait for the President to speak any moment now.

In the meantime, guys, joining me right now is Bharat Ramamurti. He's the deputy director for the President's National Economic Council. Bharat, thanks for coming in. What sticks out to you most in this report?

BHARAT RAMAMURTI, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Thank you. Well, it's a terrific report. You've got 300,000 plus jobs created. That's always good news is when more Americans are working than the month before. We've got, by the way, 12.5 million new jobs created since the President took office. That's more than two year period than we've had in any presidential term before.


And we've seen good signs, as Matt was pointing out at the top of this segment, because the job market is so strong, because wages are going up, more people are coming off the sidelines and trying to enter the job market. That's called labor force participation. That's ticking up, especially for women, so all good news all around.

BOLDUAN: If the big picture here is that job growth is still not slowing much or really not at all, what is going to work to tame inflation?

RAMAMURTI: Well, there's already some good science on that front. So we've seen headline inflation come down for seven straight months. It's not going to get down to the Fed's target overnight. It's going to be a process, it could be a bumpy process, but we're clearly headed in the right direction. There's also some data points in this jobs report that support that positive story.

So for example, wage growth, which is still robust, is starting to come down, consistent with some amount of disinflation. So really I think it's a Goldilocks report. Really strong hiring, really strong labor force participation, and some good news for the Fed as well.

BOLDUAN: Let me try another description for you on the recession front. There's no signs of recession in this at all. My colleague Christine Romans, she says she's seen analysts call this maybe what we're looking at is the Godot recession, which is everyone's waiting for it and it never comes. Do you think that's an apt description?

RAMAMURTI: Well, look, it's certainly the case that as much as a year ago people were saying that a recession was imminent and all we've had since then is robust jobs growth month after month, strong wage growth and other good signs in the economy. All I can say is that we here at the White House think that this is a very strong report. We're optimistic about where the economy is now and we're optimistic about where the economy is going, particularly as all of the bipartisan legislation that the President passed last year starts to come into effect.

The infrastructure bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, all of that is coming in the next several months and years, it's going to build on the momentum that we've created over the last two years.

BOLDUAN: Well, let me take the temperature of like where your fear level is right now. Are you more afraid of recession is coming or less afraid of recession is coming maybe than say, you know, six months ago?

RAMAMURTI: I think the story over the past six months has been quite strong. The jobs reports have been strong. The numbers on inflation, as I said, have been trending in the right direction over the last seven months. Real wages, that's wages relative to inflation are up, that means workers have more disposable income than they had before. All of that is good news.

Now, look, there's always going to be challenges. There's always headwinds in the economy. We're going to have to monitor those carefully and manage against them. But from where we sit today, it's a very positive story about where the economy is today and looking out over the horizon, where we think it's going to go.

BOLDUAN: One thing that can change this equation real quick is the fight over the debt ceiling in the coming months. This morning, the House Freedom Caucus, the most conservative bloc of Republicans over in the House, they formally laid out their demands for raising the debt ceiling and voting to raise the debt ceiling in part, one of their demands includes a few things, but it also includes they want to basically freeze discretionary spending for the next ten years.

The way that they put it off the top of their press conference was, quote, Americans will not default. America will not default on our debts unless President Biden chooses to do so. This is a group of dozens of lawmakers. Their votes matter when we're talking about how tight the voting count is in the House. What are you going to do about this?

RAMAMURTI: Well, the President's position on this has been completely clear for the last several months. The debt ceiling should be lifted without conditions. That's exactly what happened three times under President Trump. It's what's happened dozens and dozens of times throughout this country's history. It's not reasonable to negotiate over the full faith and credit of the United States. That said, we've now laid out our budget yesterday in detail, line by line, exactly what spending we're for exactly what --

BOLDUAN: Bharat, I'm going to interrupt you only for one person, your boss, President Biden now speaking. Let's listen in.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But, look, I think we've got a good jobs report. I'm happy to report that our economy has created over 300,000 new jobs last month, and that's on top of a half a million jobs we added the month before.

All told, we've created more than 12,000, 12,000 jobs since I took office, nearly 8,000 of them manufacturing jobs. That means, overall, we've created more jobs in two years than any administration has created in the first four years.

And I think all this matters. It's no accident. It means our economic plan is working. And when I took office, the recovery and the economy was, there was no recovery and the economy was reeling. And 18 million people were unemployed, on unemployment insurance, compared to less than 2 million today.

Unemployment was 6.3 percent and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted it wouldn't get below 4 percent until 2026. Because of our economic plan, unemployment has been below 4 percent for 14 straight months since January 2022.

[11:10:05] Last month, the unemployment rate remained near the lowest level in 50 years, 50 years. And that's really good news. People who were staying out of the job market, this is particularly good news, are now getting back into the job market. They're coming off the sidelines. They're getting back into the job market.

The share of working-age folks who are in the labor force is higher than it's been any time since 2008. That was one of the big predictors everybody was looking at.

Tomorrow, it'll be two years since I signed the American Rescue Plan into law. It led to the fastest recovery of every any major economy in the world. It laid the foundation for the progress we've been seeing and we see today.

Record new business applications, more Americans with healthcare coverage than ever, including more than 14 million Americans saving $800 a year on their health insurance.

Unprecedented tax relief for nearly 40 million families with 65 million children, thanks to the Child Tax Credit, which the child -- cut child poverty in half.

And since we passed the CHIPS and Science Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, we've seen companies commit more than $300 billion, companies from around the world commit more than $300 billion to invest in future manufacturing and innovation here in America, creating jobs.

We're going to invest in America again. We're going to make it in America again. And the federal government is going to buy American. That's been my economic vision.

But what does this progress really mean for families trying to get by? Well, I'll tell you. It means more people with good jobs and the dignity and security that comes with a paycheck.

And while we still have more to do and there may be setbacks along the way, inflation is now down 30 percent from what it was this summer. Gas prices are down more than $1.50 since their peak.

At the same time, take-home pay for workers has gone up, especially for lower, and then this is important in my view, especially for lower and middle-income workers.

This all adds up to just a little bit, I know you're tired of hearing me say it, breathing room. But I think it's -- that's how people think about it, a little more breathing room for working families.

And today's job numbers is clear, our economy is moving in the right direction.

Yesterday I went down to a hall in Philadelphia to lay out my budget and to outline my budget, which builds on the progress we've made growing an economy from the middle out and bottom up and not the top down. It's a plan that keeps investing in American manufacturing and innovation and creates more good-paying jobs that don't require a college degree. It protects, strengthens, and strengthens Medicare and Social Security, two bedrock programs Americans have been paying into with every paycheck they've ever earned since they've been a kid.

And we're paying for these investments. We're paying for it all. My plan, after it's all said and done, is going to cut the deficit nearly $3 trillion over the next 10 years, the plan I've submitted. And by making the wealthy and corporations just begin -- just begin, excuse me, to begin to pay their fair share.

You know, when we talk about the 28 percent tax rate, Ronald Reagan was 28 percent tax rate. You know, that wacko liberal guy, you know? The idea that that's an unreasonable amount. But I'll get into that later.

Any way, it continues to lower costs for families, building on the work we've already done to lower the cost of insulin and other prescription drugs to make health insurance more affordable. It brings down home energy costs, bills for home energy cost.

And our plan is in stark contrast to the MAGA Republican plan in Congress where they're doubling down on the same failed policies of the past that would give special tax breaks to the wealthy, keep the tax breaks that were put in place by the last President, the wealthy tax, tax breaks for Big Oil, tax breaks for pharma, at the expense of seniors and families.

You know, it's the kind of a top-down, trickle-down economics that never, ever worked. I know when I grew up, as you've heard me say before, not much trickled down on my dad's kitchen table.

So, you know, my dad used to have an expression. He'd say, don't -- I don't expect the government to solve my problems, but I do expect the government to understand my problems. Not solve them, understand them.

Building a budget requires some really hard decisions. But all over America, families are sitting around their kitchen tables making decisions that are equally consequential.

That's who my budget is for. It's about a value set, as I said yesterday. Working people, the middle class, the backbone of this country. Small businesses, who are responsible for around half of all the jobs in the economy.

You know, the big corporations, the Fortune 500, they're big. But small businesses account for half the people employed in the economy. My budget reflects what we can do to lift the burden on hardworking Americans.


Today's news tells us that thanks to our efforts, there's 12 million more Americans that have jobs. The job is about a lot more than a paycheck, as I said. It's about dignity. It's about your family's dignity. And 12 million more Americans can look their kids in the eye and say, honey, it's going to be OK, and mean it.

You know, there's the, that's a little more dignity for 12 million Americans. And it's not just good numbers. People can feel it. People are moving back into the work. But this may be the part that pleases me the most about the report, the jobs report is people who've been staying out of the job market are moving back in, beginning to move back in. Jobs are available. People are working again. They're becoming more optimistic about their future.

And now, the biggest threat to our recovery is the reckless talk, the reckless talk my MAGA friends, this is not your -- as you've heard me say, it's not your father's Republican party. But the Republicans in the United States Congress, they -- well, what they want to do with regard to the debt limit. You know, they're threatening to default on our national debt. In fact, planning to default, as some Republicans seem to be doing, puts us really much at risk.

I believe we should be building on our progress, not go backward. So, I urge our extreme MAGA Republican friends in the Congress to put the threats aside. Join me in continuing the progress we've built. We've got a lot more to do, so let's finish the job.

And, by the way, you know, when we talk about what's -- what their, I just saw my staff handed me as I was coming in, the House Freedom Caucus. There's members of the House Caucus who will consider voting to raise the debt ceiling contingent upon the enactment of legislation.

You know what the essence of the enacting legislation is? Cut all spending other than defense by 25 percent, 25 percent across the board. Now, that means cops, firefighters, it means healthcare, it means -- that's just what they call discretionary spending, as you all know.

And on top of that, the -- what they're really focused on, I saw here, we'll get -- I shouldn't get into all this now, but is -- but it kind of surprised me. They want to make sure we don't have enough IRS agents. You know those IRS agents we had? They're going to check on the accounts of -- for the super-wealthy, which would require a lot of accounting, a lot of agents to look at it. They want to get rid of them.

I don't know. We just have a very different value set. Anyway, I'm optimistic we're going to get the CPI next week. Hopefully, we'll be in some solid shape. But anyway. Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are you concerned that rising interest rates will put a damper on this job growth and impact the economy? And you mentioned the Freedom Caucus. Do you have any openness to negotiating on any of the issues that they mentioned?

BIDEN: Well, first of all, we don't know what the CPI is going to be this week. It's -- but it's been down, interest rates have been down, the inflation has been down for many weeks in a row now.

And I said, we're going to see blips going up. I -- but I'm -- I feel confident that we're headed in the right direction. And there's a lot of talk about what the Fed will do and not do. We'll see. We'll see what the Fed will do. But we'll see what this -- what the CPI is I guess it's Tuesday or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, next week, it's coming out.

The idea that I'm going to agree that we start to figure out where we cut 25 percent across the board, and by the way, their entire program does not lower the deficit one single penny. They're keeping if they -- if what they say they mean, they're going to keep the tax cuts of the last President, number one, almost $2 trillion.

If they're going to, in fact, no additional taxes on the wealthy, matter of fact, reducing taxes. And in addition to that, on top of that, they're going to say we have to cut 25 percent of every program across the board, I don't know what there's much to negotiate on.

But I'm prepared, I told the Speaker as soon as he's about ready to lay out his budget, I'm willing to sit down. And now I'm hearing things like, well, we're not going to have our budget till April or May, maybe even June.

All this talk pushing me to get my budget done. I said I'd have it done by the 9th, I had it done by the 9th. I handed it to you guys. I handed it to them. Why, all of a sudden, can't they get it done in March or maybe even April or maybe even May?

I mean, I don't -- I don't know. It doesn't sound like they're on the level yet. So, thank you very much.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, what are your thoughts on Saudi Arabia and Iran reestablishing diplomatic relations, sir?

BIDEN: The better the relations between Israel and the -- their Arab neighbors, the better for everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you sign the bill the House just unanimously proved on COVID-19?

BOLDUAN: All right, we're listening there to President Biden. Very pleased with the jobs report out today and also teeing up the next fight. Well, it's been an ongoing fight, but really where the fight is going to be picking up soon with Congress on Capitol Hill over the debt ceiling, taking the opportunity today to put some real pressure on Republicans after dozens of Republicans, the House Freedom Caucus, as were talking about earlier, have released their demands for negotiating over the debt ceiling, so the fight to come.

We've got much more ahead this hour, including this, Florida's governor is taking on Iowa, his first visit to the early Republican caucus state. A big question now is what is going to persuade Iowa voters away from this?


BRAD BOUSTEAD, IOWA REPUBLICAN VOTER: I'm a Trump supporter, and if he's not on the ballot, I'm going to write him in.




BOLDUAN: Former President Donald Trump could be a step closer to facing criminal charges. Now, this has to do with his alleged role in the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election. CNN has confirmed that the Manhattan D.A.'s office has invited Trump to testify before a grand jury. Paula Reid is following this. She joins us now. Paula, do people actually expect Trump will testify?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: No, I don't think so, Kate. But we have learned that his lawyers have recently met with the district attorney, and they are concerned amid this uptick in activity in this grand jury because this investigation has been going on for about five years.

But recently, we've seen a parade of high profile Trump allies going before the grand jury, including Kellyanne Conway at Hope Hicks, and most recently this morning, Michael Cohen, who would arguably be at the center of any potential case. And he did take a minute to talk with reporters. Let's take a quick listen to what he said.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO DONALD TRUMP: I have to applaud District Attorney Bragg for giving Donald the opportunity to come in to tell his story. Now, knowing Donald, as well as I do, understand that he doesn't tell the truth, it's one thing to turn around and to lie on, you know, on Truth Social. It's another thing to turn around and lie before a grand jury. So I don't suspect that he's going to be coming.


REID: Now, if there is an indictment here, and it does appear, based on this invitation extended to the former president to come testify before the grand jury, that they're nearing the end of their investigation and there could possibly even likely be an indictment, it's going to be an uphill battle for prosecutors.

We're talking about conduct from approximately seven years ago. At the core of this case, it really is a paperwork crime, an alleged crime nonetheless, but it's also going to be prosecuted under pretty novel theory. And at the center of this case, as I said, is Michael Cohen, who is a convicted liar, who has repeatedly gone before cameras over the past few years and said disparaging things about the former president.

And look, Kate, any good defense attorney would seize on that. And this, again, this would be a challenge for prosecutors to successfully bring a case.

BOLDUAN: Paula, though, thanks for the great reporting as always. Appreciate it.

We also have this, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is in Iowa at this hour. He just wrapped up a speech in Davenport, followed by a question and answer session with Iowa's governor. It's his first trip to the state. The official reason for his visit, a book tour. But today's event and the next one coming up later today, bear the unmistakable hallmarks of a future presidential campaign. As CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports, DeSantis and other Republican hopefuls, they have some work to do.



JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Iowa, breakfast is served with the hearty side of politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to the West Side, conservatives.

ZELENY (voice-over): In less than a year, these Republicans will help start the 2024 presidential contest. Yet talk has already turned to the end of the campaign, revolving around one question above all.

KIM SCHMETT, WESTSIDE CONSERVATIVE CLUB: We like him. The question is, can he win?

ZELENY (voice-over): He, of course, is Donald Trump, who remains at the center of the conversation at a regular gathering of loyal conservatives that Kim Schmett presides over.

SCHMETT: Right now, he's closer to getting that majority, probably in the party than anyone else, but we -- it didn't work last time, and we're concerned about that.

ZELENY (voice-over): A clear sense of Trump fatigue has set in among many Republicans, but not Terry Pearce. He still proudly wears his Make America Great Again hat and believes to his core, the former president can win again.

TERRY PEARCE, IOWA REPUBLICAN VOTER: I think Donald Trump is the only one that can lead us back to where were in 2020.

ZELENY (voice-over): Others are more blunt.

BOUSTEAD: I'm a Trump supporter, and if he's not on the ballot, I'm going to write him in.


ZELENY: So, Kate, of course that will be an issue for Republicans. If Donald Trump is not the Republican nominee, what happens to his supporters? Of course, we're getting ahead of ourselves here, voters here in Iowa that I've been talking to all week, really want to hear from the candidates. But it really points out the conundrum that the party is facing or the challenge if you're not with Donald Trump, what will you do? But I can tell you there is a lot of interest out here for Governor DeSantis and some of the other candidates as well, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And Jeff, stick with me. You know, it's always great to have you back in Iowa. It feels very exciting, David, because David Chalian is joining me as well. It's the season, David, if Jeff Zeleny is spending time in Iowa again. David?


DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly. With the beautiful Iowa State Capitol behind him, yes.

BOLDUAN: Always. If you were elsewhere, I'd be furious.