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Biden hails strong jobs report, but warns economy could slow if COVID surges again

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday welcomed data that showed the U.S. economy created the most jobs in seven months in March but warned Americans that the progress on the economy could be reversed if the coronavirus surges through the country again.

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“We still have a long way to go,” Biden told reporters.

Nonfarm payrolls surged by 916,000 jobs last month, the biggest gain since last August.

“In the face of this great news, I need also to make this clear and direct statement to the American people: progress we’ve worked so hard to achieve can be reversed,” he said.

Deaths are still rising in some states, and infections increasing, Biden warned. Several states, including Florida and Texas, have rolled back mask mandates and other coronavirus protections, even as health officials plead with Americans to be more careful.

“Don’t give back the progress we’ve all fought so hard to achieve,” Biden said. “We need to finish this job, we need every American to buckle down and keep their guard up in this home stretch,” he said.

New cases of COVID-19 in the United States rose 9% to more than 431,000 last week, the first time since January that cases have increased for two weeks in a row, according to a Reuters analysis.

Regarding his infrastructure plan, released this week, Biden said he had already spoken to Republicans to try to get support for a bill in Congress. The White House’s $2.3 trillion plan includes investments in rural broadband, veterans hospitals and schools, as well as roads and bridge.

“I think the Republican voters are going to have a lot to say about whether we get a lot of this done,” he said.

Reuters/Ipsos polling data released Friday shows the ideas in Biden’s plan are wildly popular with Americans, including raising corporate taxes to pay for it. But Republicans polled said they would not support an infrastructure plan “recently released by the Biden administration.”

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