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Trump: good jobs data means a 'great day' for George Floyd

AFP/Washington, United States
Filed on June 6, 2020 | Last updated on June 6, 2020 at 12.07 am
Donald Trump, strong jobs numbers, United States. great, day, George Floyd, coronavirus, Covid-19

(Reuters)

U.S President hails surge in employment as 'the greatest comeback in American history'.

President Donald Trump said Friday that strong new jobs numbers marked a "great day" for George Floyd, the man whose killing last week sparked nationwide protests over police brutality against African Americans.

Eleven days after Floyd's death while handcuffed in the custody of Minneapolis police, Trump said such violence can't be allowed to happen.

"Equal justice under the law must mean that every American receives equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement regardless of race, color, gender, or creed," he said.

And then he added, "Hopefully, George is looking down right now and saying, 'This is a great thing that's happening for our country.'

"This is a great day for him, it's a great day for everybody. This is a great day for everybody."

Trump was apparently referring to a surge in employment.

The Labor Department reported the country gained 2.5 million jobs in May and the unemployment rate dropped to 13.3 percent after extremely high job losses the previous months due to coronavirus lockdowns.

Trump claimed his administration has done more for African-Americans than previous presidents, including lowering their unemployment rate. 

Friday's jobs report said, however, that unemployment for blacks rose slightly to 16.8 percent.

"This is a great, great day in terms of equality," Trump said.

"Today is probably, if you think of it, the greatest comeback in American history," Trump  added. "We're going to be stronger than we were when we were riding high."

Trump, who had counted on a strong economy to bolster his chances of re-election in November, said the recovery could be hampered by higher taxes and implementation of a Green New Deal climate change plan if Democrats win the White House.

He spoke after the Labor Department released its jobs report for May, which showed the jobless rate dropped to 13.3 per cent from 14.7 per cent in April, a surprise after economists predicted it would rise to close to 20 per cent. Non-farm payrolls rose by just over 2.5 million jobs after a record plunge of slightly under 20.7 million in April.

However, many economists warn it could take years for the U.S. economy to regain all of those lost jobs. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicted in May that there will still be 10 million fewer people employed at the end of 2021 than there were at the beginning of this year.

Despite the overall drop in joblessness, the unemployment rate for African Americans rose to 16.8 per cent from 16.7 per cent in April.

Meanwhile, Trump's comments on Floyd drew a rebuke from former Vice-President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, who noted that Floyd's last words were "I can't breathe" as a police officer kneeled on his neck.

"For the president to try to put any other words in the mouth of George Floyd, I frankly, think is despicable," Biden said at an event in Delaware.

A raft of recent public polls showed Trump trailing Biden nationally and in some of the battleground states where the November 3 election will be decided.

PUSH FOR RE-OPENING

Trump has struggled to respond to the novel coronavirus, which led to nationwide lockdowns that put the economy into a virtual standstill. More than 1.88 million Americans have been infected and more than 108,000 have been killed by the virus since February.

Trump, who was criticised for initially downplaying the threat of the virus to the United States, said authorities should focus on protecting the elderly, who are more likely to die from the virus, and allow younger people to return to work and school. He said states like California that still have restrictions in place should follow the example of Florida and other states that have lifted them.

The U.S. Congress has signed off on trillions of dollars in economic aid but is now deadlocked over whether additional stimulus is needed.

Democrats said Washington needed to do more to head off public-sector layoffs. "Now is not the time to be complacent or take a victory lap," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Trump said he would support further relief and Vice-President Mike Pence, in an interview with CNBC, said that could include aid to states that have warned they may have to lay off teachers, police and other public employees. Republicans in Congress have resisted that idea.


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