WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - President Donald Trump said June’s better-than-expected jobs report shows a strong rebound from losses due to the coronavirus pandemic even as new cases surge in parts of the US.
“Today’s announcement proves our economy is roaring back,” Trump said Thursday at a White House news conference.
He predicted a resurgence just before the November election.
Trump’s comments came amid a record daily number of new coronavirus cases and decisions by some states to slow or reverse plans to reopen their economies. Trump, who has come under widespread criticism for his handling of the virus, is trailing Democratic challenger Joe Biden in national polls and in key swing states.
The rebound of the US jobs market accelerated in June, as businesses continued to reopen – cheered on by Trump. Payrolls rose by 4.8 million last month and the unemployment rate fell to 11.1 per cent from 13.3 per cent in May.
Economists had forecast payrolls would rise by three million and an unemployment rate of 12.5 per cent.
NEW VIRUS CASES
But those reopenings have been blamed for a resurgence of virus cases in mostly Republican-run states that were quickest to remove stay-at-home orders.
Trump praised his administration’s handling of the virus and predicted a “fantastic” third quarter that would help him before voters go to the polls.
“The good thing is the numbers will be coming out just prior to the election,” Trump said.
The president expressed confidence that the surge in virus cases would not slow the recovery.
“It’s got a life, and we’re putting out that life because that’s a bad life that we’re talking about,” Trump said of the virus.
The US set a single-day record of 51,817 new cases on Wednesday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
A separate report from the Labour Department showed that initial applications for state unemployment insurance fell by less than expected, to 1.43 million for the week ending June 27. There have been nearly 2.7 million confirmed cases in the US since the outbreak began and more than 128,000 people have died.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who also spoke to reporters at the White House, said he has started negotiations with Democrats and Republicans in Congress over the next economic rescue package, though he said the legislation would be more “targeted” to help struggling businesses.
The legislation could include redirecting roughly US$130 billion (S$180 billion) in unused funds left in the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, Mnuchin said.
The Treasury secretary said the administration is working with schools and universities on their reopening plans for the fall, and educational institutions could also receive stimulus funds in the next package.
“We want to make sure that kids are safe and that if there is money that schools need to spend to safely have people in classrooms, social distance, spread things out, change hours, these are all the things we’re looking at,” Mnuchin said.
Trump on Thursday didn’t address political criticism over his handling of reports that Russia paid bounties to kill US troops in Afghanistan. The president has dismissed the reports as a “hoax,” even though his own senior officials weighed possible reprisals.
In addition, the president’s continued stoking of racial tensions in the face of nationwide protests against police brutality continue to spark controversy.
Asked about Trump’s decision to tweet, then delete, a video of a supporter in Florida shouting “white power” at a demonstrator, Mnuchin replied: “We’re here to talk about economics.”
“I think the president is focused on everything. I think this issue of statues and everything else is a complicated issue,” Mnuchin said. “We need to have a balanced view of history.”