WASHINGTON - The Trump administration and the Biden campaign sparred Sunday on the state of the U.S. economy eight weeks ahead of the November 3 national presidential election.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin cited the drop in the unemployment rate to 8.4% in August and the addition of 1.4 million jobs as evidence that the American economy, the world’s largest, is recovering from the worst of the turmoil inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ll have a phenomenal (gross domestic product) in the third quarter” extending from July through September, Mnuchin told the “Fox News Sunday” show.
But he acknowledged the U.S. economy still needs at least 7.5 million new jobs to regain its footing from March, when the jobless rate was at a five-decade low of 3.5%.
Millions of workers remain unemployed, while employers have permanently killed off jobs. More than 50 million workers at one time or another have collected unemployment compensation in the U.S. this year.
“The American economy is rebounding,” Mnuchin said, adding that Republican President Donald Trump “is going to get it back. The economy is continuing to recover, and we won’t quit until everyone is back to work.”
But Senator Kamala Harris, the vice-presidential running mate of Trump’s Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, described Trump as “an abject failure and incompetent” in handling the economy during the pandemic.
She told CNN that Trump only gauges how well the economy is doing “based on how well rich people are doing. One in five mothers say their kids under 12 are hungry.”
Mnuchin said the Republican-controlled Senate will attempt this week to approve a targeted, slimmed-down coronavirus relief package to augment the $3 trillion in aid Congress and Trump authorized earlier this year.
But Republican and Democratic lawmakers have been unable to agree on a broader package of new assistance, disagreeing, along with other issues, on the amount of additional assistance for unemployed workers and how long it should last.
Until the end of July, the national government had been sending $600 a week to jobless workers on top of less generous state unemployment benefits, Trump signed an executive order calling for $400 a week extra payments, but state governments have been slow to start sending the reduced stipends to jobless workers and not all states have agreed to make the payments.