Carlo Allegri | Reuters
WASHINGTON – As one of the most tumultuous weeks of his presidency came to a close, President Donald Trump got an unexpected chance to celebrate Friday, when new unemployment figures came in better than expected.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, May payrolls grew by 2.5 million, a striking reversal after months of economic collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and forecasts that 9 million jobs would be lost in May.
Within minutes of the new jobs numbers’ 8:30 a.m. release, Trump scheduled a press conference for 10 a.m. Friday, a chance for the president to get in front of the cameras and relish the first good news he’s had in weeks.
It’s safe to bet that Trump will point to the numbers as proof that he was correct in pressuring states to reopen businesses last month, despite most of them not having met the recommended criteria for reopening following the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The BLS figures reflected this, in that the U.S. added 1.4 million jobs in “food services and drinking places” last month. This is likely a reflection of restaurants reopening, either for takeout or for modified food service.
Lost in the celebration are likely to be the twin realities that the United States still has an unemployment rate of 13.3%, and that new cases of coronavirus nationwide are still hovering around 21,000 a day.
Nonetheless, the jobs numbers should provide a rare piece of positive news after a week of violent civil unrest nationwide, triggered by the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old, unarmed black man in Minneapolis who died in police custody.
The protests, some of which turned violent, have pitted thousands of peaceful protesters against police in dozens of American cities, and both police and protesters have been seriously hurt as a result.
Rather than call for calm, however, Trump has used the protests to fan flames of divisiveness, demanding that governors use harsher tactics to “dominate” the protesters, and threatening to deploy active-duty troops to U.S. cities if local governments do not act fast enough to stop the demonstrations and the looting that has followed protests in several major cities.
This is a developing story, please check back for updates.