- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 2, 2020

Employers added a record 4.8 million jobs in June as the economy bounced back from coronavirus shutdowns, prompting an increasingly vulnerable President Trump to celebrate the “spectacular” news four months before he faces voters, while a key government forecaster warned that a full recovery is still years away.

The robust job gains bolstered nearly every sector of the U.S. economy, including manufacturing, retail, construction, hospitality and restaurants, as the unemployment rate declined to 11.1% from 13.3% in May.

Combined with a revised 2.7 million jobs added in May, the Labor Department said 7.5 million Americans went back to work over two months.

Within an hour of the report, the president went on live TV at the White House to proclaim that the recovery is “shattering all expectations.”

“Today’s announcement proves that our economy is roaring back,” Mr. Trump said. “These are historic numbers in a time that a lot of people would have wilted. But we didn’t wilt, and our country didn’t wilt.”

The president said about 80% of small businesses nationwide have reopened, and he credited his policies for the comeback.

SEE ALSO: U.S. adds 4.8 million jobs as unemployment falls to 11.1%

“The only thing that can kill it is a president that wants to raise taxes,” he said, referring to Democratic rival Joseph R. Biden. “This is not just luck, what’s happening. This is a lot of talent. These are not numbers made up by me. These are numbers.”

Pointing to the rebounding stock market — Wall Street posted its best quarter since 1998 on Tuesday — the president said a Biden election in November could lead to “a 1929 situation.”

“You’ll have a crash like you’ve never seen before,” Mr. Trump said. “If you put the wrong person in office, you’ll see things that you would not have believed are possible.”

Mr. Biden said the president’s celebration was premature. He noted that the cutoff date for the jobs data was June 12, before states such as Texas, California and Florida closed bars, beaches and other venues again because of rising numbers of COVID-19 cases.

“We’ve seen cases spiking. Some businesses have to close down again, some states reimposing restrictions,” Mr. Biden said. “There’s no victory to be celebrated when we’re still down nearly 15 million jobs and the pandemic is getting worse, not better. Trump wants to declare this health crisis over and unemployment solved. He’s deadly wrong — on both fronts.”

There was more good economic news Thursday: 30-year fixed mortgage rates fell to 3.07%, the lowest since record-keeping began in 1971, mortgage giant Freddie Mac said.

Mr. Trump is banking on a rapid recovery to help him beat Mr. Biden, who surged to a lead of about 10 points in most national polls after millions of Americans lost their jobs. More than 128,000 have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Some White House advisers acknowledged that the labor market is still far from a full recovery.

“There [is] still a lot of hardship and a lot of heartbreak in these numbers,” said White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow. “We have a ways to go.”

Some economists argue that the government’s jobless data during the crisis is undercounting the unemployed. The Peterson Institute for International Economics published its “realistic unemployment rate,” co-authored by Obama administration economic adviser Jason Furman, which found that the actual jobless rate in June was 13%.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted Thursday that the economy will come roaring out of the coronavirus recession with growth surging to 12.4% for the rest of this year. But it said the unemployment rate will be at nearly 6% into 2024, several points higher than its historically low 3.5% in February, before the pandemic hit.

The gross domestic product, the chief measure of the economy, will be 3.4% lower on average over the decade, CBO said. Analysts said low-income workers — and Blacks, Hispanics and women — have been hit particularly hard by the downturn, chiefly because they were more likely to hold jobs in service sectors that were most affected.

Those numbers have sparked calls among Democrats for a fourth round of coronavirus assistance from Congress, in addition to the $3 trillion already approved. In particular, Democrats want to extend “supercharged” unemployment benefits of $600 per week beyond the end of July, when they are set to expire.

“Today’s jobs report may just be a slight peak in a much larger valley, and unless … Senate Republicans get off their hands and finally work with Democrats to quickly provide additional federal fiscal relief, the pain America is experiencing will only worsen,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York.

COVID-19 cases are on the rise. The U.S. set a daily record this week with more than 50,000 new cases in a single day and almost all states reporting increases.

Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Florida on Thursday to discuss the surging number of cases with Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, after traveling to Texas and Arizona to pledge support for their hard-hit areas. Mr. Pence said the administration will do “whatever it takes” to help Florida, and he noted that about half of all new cases were diagnosed in people younger than 35.

“Just know that if all of us do our part, we’ll get through this,” the vice president said.

Mr. Trump said the coronavirus has an arc to its life and noted that China is finally getting COVID-19 under control after discovering the virus in December. He said the virus spread to Europe before the U.S. and that Europe is starting to control it. He said he expects the U.S. to follow suit.

“It’s got a life. We’re putting out that life because that’s a bad life that we’re talking about,” Mr. Trump said.

The president insisted that states are well-stocked with ventilators and other supplies and said it is up to states to decide when to reopen their economies. He also said Americans must use face coverings, maintain distance and observe hygiene.

“Wash your hands,” Mr. Trump said.

The rebounding economy likely will have an impact on negotiations on Capitol Hill over the size and scope of the next rescue package. House Democrats last month passed a $3 trillion plan, including hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to states and cities.

Rep. Don Beyer, Virginia Democrat and vice chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, chided Republicans for what he called their “absurd argument that job gains over the past two months mean that unemployed workers no longer need supplemental benefits.”

“We are still nearly 15 million jobs in the hole,” Mr. Beyer said. “There have been over 1 million new unemployment claims for 15 straight weeks, and job losses for public-sector workers at the state and local level have been catastrophic.”

More than 1.4 million Americans filed for first-time jobless claims last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Mr. Beyer said that adding the spike in COVID-19 cases “and hospitalizations in states that reopened too soon … it is easy to see that the fresh start the Trump administration has been trumpeting is actually a false start.”

“The most important thing we can do to get the economy back on track is to contain the virus, yet the president has his head in the sand. In the meantime, we must provide relief to workers, families and state and local governments for as long as they need it,” Mr. Beyer said.

White House advisers said they don’t regret cheering the reopening of economies during the pandemic, though they suggested that some states were too hasty.

“I think some places may have been overexuberant,” Mr. Kudlow said.

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said he is hopeful that working parents will be able to get their children out of the house this fall.

“I think in most places, schools will be able to open safely,” Mr. Mnuchin said.

He said the next coronavirus relief bill from Congress could include funding for schools that want to revamp their facilities to prevent the virus.

⦁ Stephen Dinan and Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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