After President Donald Trump celebrated unexpectedly good jobs numbers on Friday, and then briefly alluded to a fight for “equal justice under the law,” he said he hoped George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes, was “looking down” and celebrating “this great day.”
The U.S. unemployment rate unexpectedly dropped to 13.3 percent in May, according to government figures—however the rate for African-Americans rose to 16.8 percent, according to a report published Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest rate was for Latino workers, with 17.6 percent out of work.
Despite this, Trump called it “a tremendous tribute to equality,” nodding at the return of millions of jobs that disappeared during the coronavirus pandemic before pivoting to the recent protests against police brutality.
“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. They have to receive fair treatment from law enforcement. They have to receive it. We all saw what happened last week. We can’t let that happen,” Trump said from the White House Rose Garden.
“Hopefully, George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing happening for our country. It’s a great day for him, a great day for everybody. It’s a great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality."
There were 2.5 million jobs gained in May, the biggest monthly increase ever. The president likened the unexpected return of jobs, while some of the country’s biggest states are still under partial lockdowns, to undergoing surgery with a healthy body.
“We built a tremendous thing so when it got ill, when we had a problem, we were able to cut it off, stop it just like this, keep everyone inside, keep ‘em away, together, away, uninfected, and we saved millions of lives and now we’re opening and we’re opening with a bang.”
Experts predicted the jobless rate would rise to a new high of almost 20 percent in May but it actually fell from April’s record of 14.7 percent. However, experts have pointed out that the coronavirus pandemic may have made it more difficult for statisticians to come up with a reliable unemployment figure.
Prof. Justin Wolfers from the University of Michigan said the numbers must be treated with caution as the pandemic has forced statisticians to change their methodology. “The unemployment rate is surely understated, and even the BLS agrees that in reality it’s 16 percent rather than 13 percent,” he wrote.
Trump rambled for more than forty minutes in 80-degree weather on Friday, offering stream-of-consciousness commentary on everything from his fear of the “D word” to Sweden’s disastrous coronavirus strategy, reporters not social distancing during his presser (“it looks much better I must say”), and the Democratic powerhouse states of New York and California who were “barely included” in the unexpected economic uptick.
“I’ll give you this analogy, somebody told me yesterday, it was Larry Kudlow, he said, ‘Sir, this is like a hurricane’ and we were worried, we didn’t know, was this going to be a hurricane or a major, major recession? A major recession that’s not artificially caused, because we artificially, this was artificially closed, we just said, ‘Boom, closed,’ and everything just stopped. And also, you know what else stopped? Big numbers on death by doing it, and that’s why I had to do it. We made every decision correctly.”
The president called the jobs numbers a “rocketship” that would fuel a long period of growth—a “very good August, a very good July, but a spectacular, maybe specular September, but a spectacular October, November, December” and a 2021 that “is gonna be one of the best years we’ve had economically.”
He name-checked cable-news stars and investors who he thought were either right and wrong in their economic predictions. Warren Buffett, he said, got it wrong because airline stocks “went through the roof” on Friday.
Other commentators predicted there would be nine million job losses reported on Friday. “I think it was probably the greatest miscalculation in the history of business shows,” he said. “And that’s OK. But one of the reasons why we’re in this position is because we had such a strong foundation.”
“Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo and Charles Payne, and CNBC’s Jim Cramer and Joe Kernan, got it right,” Trump said. “They had confidence in me, they had confidence in this team.”
Trump’ response to Floyd’s death has been inconsistent. While he condemned the death and the cops involved, he has deployed active-duty forces to several states to quell protests, has called some demonstrators “thugs” and has not shown interest in pursuing policies to reform policing or racial inequality. He also allowed peaceful protesters to be dispersed using tear gas in D.C. on Monday so he could walk to a church for a photo.