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Biden takes economic pitch to battleground Pennsylvania on US Labor Day

REHOBOTH BEACH, Delaware (Reuters) – President Joe Biden travels to Philadelphia on Monday to mark U.S. Labor Day in a political battleground state where the White House hopes his emphasis on worker-friendly policies will help propel Biden to another victory in 2024.

After visiting Florida on Saturday to survey damage from Hurricane Idalia before going to his home state of Delaware, Biden, a Democrat, plans to speak at an AFL-CIO union group event in neighboring Pennsylvania, a state that helped him defeat former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

Biden describes himself as a pro-union president, and the White House has sought in recent months to sell his economic policies under the moniker of “Bidenomics” to a public worried about the economy, despite easing inflation and low unemployment levels.

Republicans counter that Democratic policies helped spark the higher prices that have cost Americans more when paying for rent, groceries and gasoline under Biden’s watch.

The Fed has raised rates by 5.25 percentage points since March 2022 and the 30-year mortgage rate now stands above 7%.

Inflation by the Fed’s preferred gauge, however, has moved down to 3.3% from its peak of 7% last summer. Although the decline was a “welcome development,” Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said late last month, inflation “remains too high” and the Fed might need to raise interest rates further.

U.S. job growth picked up in August, but the unemployment rate jumped to 3.8% and wage gains moderated, according to data released by the Labor Department last week. The labor market is slowing in response to the central bank’s rate hikes.

The White House notes inflation-adjusted income is up 3.5% since Biden came into office in January 2021, with lower-wage workers benefiting, and the unemployment rate is close to a 50-year low.

In an opinion piece published ahead of Labor Day in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Biden highlighted his administration’s proposal to extend overtime pay to some 3.6 million Americans and praised unions for being good for the economy.

“Every American willing to work hard should be able to get a job, raise their family on a good paycheck, and keep their roots where they grew up,” he wrote. “That’s why Bidenomics is anchored in what’s always worked best for our country: investing in America’s workers, the real heroes of our story.”

Economic issues are likely to play a critical role in the 2024 presidential race.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll last month showed that the economy, unemployment and jobs remained Americans’ top concern. A full 60% of Americans, including one in three Democrats, said they disapproved of Biden’s handling of inflation, according to the poll.

Pennsylvania and a handful of other political battleground states that fluctuate between supporting Democrats and Republicans in presidential elections will help determine who leads the country after next year.