WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump, besieged by protesters and the coronavirus pandemic, used an event Friday to tout the nation's latest jobs numbers and to predict the U.S. economy is beginning to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.
"It's affirmation of all the work we've been doing," Trump said.
Trump also touched on the protesters that have gathered outside the White House for days following the death of George Floyd, the African American man who died in police custody last week. Trump castigated governors that he said had not called in the National Guard to address riots and looting in some cities.
"Don’t be proud. Get the job done," Trump said, speaking directly to the nation's governors and echoing remarks he made to them in a phone call last week. "You have to dominate the streets." Trump referred to Floyd, saying that "hopefully" he was "looking down right now" and thinking "this is a great thing that's happening for our country."
Trump announced the Rose Garden event after the Labor Department posted a snapback in hiring in May, and a drop in the unemployment rate to 13.3%. Trump, who has aggressively pushed for states to reopen their economies, is putting his stewardship of the economy at the center of his reelection message.
He criticized governors that have kept lock down orders in place.
"I don't know why they continue to lock down," he said.
"We want to get all of this finished."
The favorable numbers shocked analysts who had predicted that the May report would show widespread job losses and a surge in the unemployment rate to 20% amid coronavirus-related lockdowns.
"These improvements in the labor market reflected a limited resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed in March and April," the Labor Department said.
Trump's news conference comes just hours before Democratic president candidate Joe Biden was scheduled to give remarks on the nation's economy at 12:15 p.m. EDT. Trump's promotion of the jobs report comes at a time he has fallen behind Biden in a series of election polls, including in battleground states.
The president has largely remained out of public view for several days since a controversial decision to clear a park near the White House of protesters peacefully demonstrating to call attention to the death of Floyd. Trump then strolled across the park and held a Bible for news cameras at a historic church.
Since then, Trump has confronted a public split with Defense Secretary Mark Esper over the use of active-duty troops to address the protests in cities across the country and a blistering denunciation by his former top Pentagon official James Mattis.
"Smart move," Democratic strategist Jim Manley opined of the event. "He hasn’t had a lot of good news for a while so he is going to tout these new job numbers for all it’s worth."
Trump is heading to Maine later to tour the Puritan Medical Products factory that makes medical swabs used in coronavirus testing.