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U.S. jobs report represents ‘a great day’ for George Floyd, Trump says


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President Donald Trump took a victory lap Friday morning after the government reported surprising job gains for last month, invoking George Floyd’s name to assert that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic disruption was over

With the country in upheaval over the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Trump said that an economic rebound was his answer to racial inequality, saying it “is the greatest thing that can happen for race relations.”

Trump spoke from the Rose Garden hours after the Labour Department said that U.S. employers added 2.5 million workers to their payrolls last month. Economists had been expecting them instead to slash another 8 million jobs amid the ongoing fallout from the response to the pandemic.

“This shows that what we’ve been doing is right,” Trump said of the jobs numbers. “This is outstanding, what’s happened today.”

Trump spoke nearly an hour and only briefly mentioned Floyd, the black man who died after a police officer pinned his neck down last week in Minneapolis. The president otherwise touted an economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis that has disproportionately affected black Americans.

“Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country,” Trump said. “This is a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody.”

WATCH: Trump invokes Floyd’s name to talk jobs:

In the midst of an upbeat jobs report, in which he touted the benefits for black Americans, Donald Trump said it’s a ‘great, great day in terms of equality.’ 0:48

Florida Rep.Donna Shalala, the former health secretary in the Bill Clinton administration, said she was “appalled” at the reference. Democratic senators Kamala Harris and Sherrod Brown also panned the reference to Floyd.

The unemployment rate dropped to a better-than-expected 13.3 per cent — nearly two percentage points lower than some estimates — but it’s a figure still on par with what the nation witnessed during the Great Depression.

Also, it’s unclear how many jobs lost as a result of the pandemic are permanently lost, whether the reopenings in states will create a second surge of COVID-19 deaths, the respiratory illness that sometimes occurs in those who have the novel coronavirus.

Trump grew angered when reporter Yamiche Alcindor, who he has clashed with before, asked why it was a “great day” when unemployment tracking for African Americans and Asian Americans actually saw a slight increase.

“You are something,” said Trump in response.

Before that, Trump’s mood was largely ebullient even though the number of Americans who have died coronavirus-related deaths approaches 110,000, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

He defended his handling of the pandemic, saying that had he not acted to recommend closings more than 1 million Americans would have died, though most models have only suggested those type of estimates if few or no mitigation efforts were put in place.

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.

“You do social distancing and you wear masks if you want,” Trump said, but added that states need to reopen.

Mural, street name honour black lives

The May job gain suggests that businesses have quickly been recalling workers as states have reopened their economies, but it may take months for all those who lost work in April and March to find jobs. Some economists forecast the rate could remain in the double-digits through the November elections and into next year.

Trump also a signed an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, the federal subsidy program that is helping keep millions on the job. The bipartisan law gives companies more flexibility in using funds from the forgivable federal loans to pay their workers and cover other qualified expenses.

Protester paint a giant Black Lives Matter sign on 16th street near the White House in Washington, D.C., on Friday. (Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images)

Not far from where Trump spoke, city workers and activists painted the words Black Lives Matter in enormous bright yellow letters on the the street leading to the White House, a highly visible sign of the District of Columbia’s embrace of a protest movement that has put it at odds with President Donald Trump.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted aerial video of the mural shortly after it was completed Friday. The letters and an image of the city’s flag stretch across 16th Street for two blocks, ending just before the church where Trump staged a photo-op after federal officers forcibly cleared a peaceful demonstration to make way for the president and his entourage.

“The section of 16th street in front of the White House is now officially ‘Black Lives Matter Plaza,”‘ Bowser tweeted. A black and white sign was put up to mark the change.

Bowser’s endorsement of the project follows her verbal clashes with the Trump administration over the response to local protests of Floyd’s killing. Bowser has complained about the heavy-handed federal response and called for the removal of out-of-state National Guard troops. She says their differences highlight the need for D.C. to be a state and have more control over its internal affairs.

On Thursday, as the protests turned peaceful, she ended a curfew imposed after people damaged buildings and broke into businesses over the weekend and Monday.

The mayor also tweeted out a letter from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who wrote the president to express alarm that peaceful protesters were being confronted by heavily armed federal agents and officers, many of them with their identities and agencies obscured.

www.cbc.ca 2020-06-05 17:12:11

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