Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, March 5, 2021

The White House

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Lots going on around here. I have a couple of items for all of you at the top.

Obviously, today is “Jobs Day.” And with today’s jobs report showing — show — while it shows some progress, it also shows the long road ahead. Right now, there are 9.5 million fewer jobs than at this time last year. This is a larger jobs hole than at any point in the Great Recession. At this month’s pace, it will take us more than two years to get to pre-pandemic employment levels, and will take even longer at the average pace over the last three months.

This is unacceptable, and it’s unacceptable when 4 million Americans have been unemployed for more than six months, or when unemployment is at 9.9 percent for African Americans and 8.5 percent for Hispanics. Congress must pass the American Rescue Plan now so we can get Americans back to work, and so we can get relief to the millions of people who are struggling.

As you know, this afternoon, the President and the Vice President will receive their weekly economic briefing with Treasury Secretary Yellen; Chair of the Economic — Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Cecilia Rouse — newly confirmed; National Economic Council Director Brian Deese; and Chief Economic Adviser to the Vice President, Mike Pyle. The economic team will provide an update on the jobs report released today, along with an update on unemployment by race and female participation in the workforce.

Afterward, the President will participate in a roundtable with individuals who will benefit from receiving relief checks thanks to the American Rescue Plan.

As you may have also seen yesterday or may not have — there’s a lot going on, so that’s why I wanted to shout this out — senior White House officials hosted a virtual listening session with Asian American and Pacific Islander advocates and community leaders from across the country to discuss the increasing rates of anti-Asian harassment and violence. The President is committed to ending anti-Asian violence and bias, and he has made clear that it’s the policy of this administration to condemn and combat xenophobia against Asian Americans wherever it exists.

In a week-one presidential memorandum, President Biden charged the Department of Justice with partnering with Asian American communities to prevent and better collect data on hate crimes against Asian American communities.

Last, but certainly not least, we have a week ahead. On Monday, the President will sign two executive orders to advance gender equity and opportunity for women. He will also visit a veteran’s vaccination center with Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Denis McDonough. On Tuesday, he will visit a small business that has benefited from a Paycheck Protection Program loan. On Wednesday, the President will travel to Baltimore, Maryland, for an event with the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson and Merck at Emergent BioSolutions. And on Thursday, the President will deliver remarks on the anniversary of the COVID-19 shutdown.

With that, Alex, why don’t you kick us off?

Q Jen, thanks. So we’re 45 days into the Biden presidency, and he has yet to hold a presser. At this point in past presidencies, every President, you know, from Reagan, had addressed reporters — some of them multiple times. So why the delay, and when can we expect the President to hold a press conference?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, as all you know, the President takes questions several times a week. He took questions actually twice yesterday, which is an opportunity for the people covering the White House to ask him about whatever news is happening on any given day. We look forward to holding a full press conference in the coming weeks, before the end of the month. And we’re working on setting a final date for that. And as soon as we do, we will let you all know.

But this President came in during a historic crisis — two historic crises: a pandemic like the country had not seen in decades and decades and an economic downturn that left 10 million people out of work.

So I think the American people would certainly understand if his focus and his energy and his attention has been on ensuring we secure enough vaccines to vaccinate all Americans, which we will do by the end of May, and then pushing for a Rescue Plan that will provide direct checks to almost 160 million Americans. That’s where his time, energy, his focus has been. But in the meantime, he takes questions multiple times a week and looks forward to continuing to do that. And as soon as we have a press conference set, we’ll let you know.

Q Sure. Those sprays, though, are not an ideal form for us to be asking questions. He can’t hear us half the time. We get, maybe, two questions, and then we’re shuffled out. So why hasn’t he answered questions from the press at this point? Is it just that he’s too busy?

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