The event was meant to celebrate unemployment figures, which came in better than expected but still showed a U.S. economy that is very weak, with the jobless rate at 13.3 percent. During the ceremony, Trump signed a new bill into law that gives businesses more flexibility in how they use bailout funds.
During nearly an hour of remarks, Trump suggested the worst of the economic pain caused by the coronavirus pandemic was far behind the United States. Circled by advisers, Trump said the economy was roaring back to life now that some workers had returned after large parts of the economy shut down in March and April. Many economists believe the U.S. did plummet sharply into a recession earlier this year, though they have differing views on how quickly it might recover.
Trump has long expressed confidence the economy would rebound once states started relaxing their public health restrictions, imposed to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. “We’ve been talking about a ‘V.' A 'V' is wonderful. This is better than a V. This is a rocket-ship,” the president said, referring to the shape of the economic recovery. “This is outstanding what’s happened today.”
Many economists warn the jobs report could in part reflect the massive federal aid approved by Congress in late March, rather than the economy’s underlying strength. The federal government poured an additional $1.25 trillion into the economy in the third quarter of 2020, with much of that funding taking effect between the April and May jobs reports. Much of that federal aid is now set to peter out, with Americans spending their $1,200 stimulus checks and a $600-per-week increase in unemployment benefits set to expire at the end of July.
Lawmakers have been at an impasse over the next stimulus package. Congressional Democrats have pushed trillions in additional spending to prevent the economy from falling into a protracted recession, while the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have urged a “wait-and-see” approach.
Trump on Friday said the White House would be asking for additional stimulus money, “despite the numbers and how good they are,” citing low interest rates that make it cheap for the government to borrow. He also said he would seek a payroll tax cut and special assistance for restaurants.
Some White House advisers seized on the jobs report to argue it bolsters the case to hold off on additional government spending. Art Laffer and Stephen Moore, two economic advisers to the White House, said in interviews that the jobs report shows that Congress does not need to approve additional stimulus measures given the uptick.
“It takes a lot of the wind out of the sails of any” new plan, Moore said. “We don’t need it now. … There’s no reason to have a major spending bill. The sense of urgent crisis is very greatly dissipated by the report.”
Two Republican congressional aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal dynamics, also said the jobs report diminishes the odds of another big stimulus package. One Senate Republican aide said the jobs report “definitely kills any chance of trillions of new spending” but allowed Congress may approve a more limited package.
Some economists fear Trump could hurt the economic recovery by pumping the brakes on federal aid prematurely.
“This is … like stopping an antibiotic prematurely because you start to feel better,” said Ernie Tedeschi, an economist who served in the Obama administration. “If we let support expire too soon, we could have a double-dip downturn.”
John Wagner contributed to this report.
A previous version of this story incorrectly said that the president called the jobs report a “great day” for George Floyd, the black man killed by white police in Minneapolis. In fact, the president was referring to growing calls for equal justice under the law.