Donald Trump cites strong US jobs report, says 'great day' for George Floyd

FILE PIC: US President Donald Trump | Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump on Friday declared it was a great day for George Floyd as he discussed a strong jobs report for the country and efforts to bring about racial equality. Joe Biden, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, however, said that Trump's comments about Floyd were despicable.

Trump's comments came after he shifted from discussing a drop in the unemployment rate to say everyone deserved equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement, regardless of race, color, gender or creed. "We all saw what happened last week. We can't let that happen,"he said. 

"Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that's happening for our country," Trump said.

He added."This is a great day for him. It's a great day for everybody. This is a great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality."

He was quick to seize the positive jobs report at a time when his political standing is at one of the weakest points of his presidency less than five months before the general election. Just 2 in 10 voters believe the country is headed in the right direction, a Monmouth University poll found earlier in the week.

Floyd, who was black, died after a white police officer pressed his knee on his neck for several minutes, ignoring Floyd's cries that he couldn't breathe and bystander shouts. Floyd's death set off protests around the world, including outside the White House.

Trump spoke shortly after the government said the unemployment rate had dropped to 13.3 per cent, better than expected but still at par with Great Depression-era levels of joblessness.

He offered the data as evidence that the nation had overcome the worst of the coronavirus pandemic and had begun an economic comeback. Biden panned Trump's comments during an economic speech in Delaware.

"We're speaking of a man who was brutally killed by an act of needless violence and by a larger tide of injustice that has metastasized on this president's watch," Biden said.

"George Floyd's last words, 'I can't breathe. I can't breathe,' have echoed all across this nation and quite frankly around the world," Biden added. "For the president to try to put any other words in the mouth of George Floyd, I frankly think, is despicable,"he said.

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said some news outlets had purposely misreported the president's comments to insinuate that Floyd would be pleased about the positive jobs numbers.

He said Trump was referencing the national conversation that followed Floyd's death and Americans coming together on the belief that everyone should be treated equally under the law. "The sentences that preceded and followed the president's sentiments about Mr. Floyd made the context crystal clear," Murtaugh said.

"Media claims that the president said that Mr. Floyd would be praising the economic news are wrong, purposefully misrepresented, and maliciously crafted.

Many economists digging into the jobs report saw a struggle ahead after the burst of hiring last month.

Friday's report reflected the benefits of nearly $3 trillion in government aid instead of an organic return to normal. Only one of every nine jobs lost because of the pandemic has been recovered, and the specter of corporate bankruptcies hangs over the recovery.

Much of the growth came from 2.7 million workers who were temporarily laid-off going back to their jobs. This likely reflected $510 billion in forgivable loans from the Payroll Protection Program to nearly 4.5 million employersan administration initiative that helped push the unemployment rate down to 13.3 per cent from 14.7 per cent in April. African American unemployment rose slightly to 16.8 percent.

As the money from the PPP program runs out, there could be another round of layoffs, warned Sung Won Sohn, an economist at Loyola Marymount University.

There will be continuing residual fear and uncertainty, Sohn said. Trump on Friday defended his handling of the pandemic, contending that more than 1 million Americans would have died had he not acted. More than 108,000 people are confirmed to have lost their lives due to the coronavirus, according to a count from Johns Hopkins University.

Now, though, Trump said states and cities should be lifting remaining restrictions. I don't know why they continue to lock down, he said of some jurisdictions that have maintained closings.

Former South Carolina Gov. and Rep. Mark Sanford, a Republican who briefly mounted a primary challenge to Trump last year, dismissed any employment gain due to federal deficit spending.

What we have right now is federal policy aimed solely at boosting numbers that obviously would help in a reelection effort, Sanford said in an interview.

We're literally buying jobs. But there was little sign of concern among Trump and his Republican allies in Washington.

This shows that what we've been doing is right," Trump said of the jobs numbers. He added: Today is probably the greatest comeback in American history. He pitched himself as key to a rocket ship rebound that would fail only if he doesn't win reelection.

I'm telling you next year, unless something happens or the wrong people get in here, this will turn around, Trump said.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel