Trump touts 'historic' jobs report as rival Biden accuses him of premature celebration

(Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday touted a government report showing the country gained a record 4.8 million jobs in June, drawing a blistering response from his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, that he was ignoring a much bleaker reality.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a press briefing on the U.S. economy and new U.S. employment and unemployment numbers in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

“Today’s announcement proves that our economy is roaring back,” Trump said. “These are historic numbers.”

Biden criticized Trump hours later for trumpeting the figures even as the unemployment rate remained in double digits and there were more coronavirus cases than ever before.

“There’s no victory to be celebrated,” the former vice president said. “We’re still down 15 million jobs and the pandemic is getting worse, not better.”

The country’s unemployment rate dropped in June as states began easing strict lockdowns aimed at stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus.

But the jobs report does not reflect a resurgence of the virus in recent weeks in states with large economies such as California, Texas and Florida, which has prompted a fresh round of closures for bars and other businesses.

A separate report on Thursday said 1.43 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits during the final week of June.

Despite the new cases, Trump said he expected to see good employment numbers in the coming months and that the third-quarter gross domestic product report, due days before the November presidential election, would also be strong.

He added, though, that the White House and Congress continue to negotiate on another round of stimulus, frequently called “Phase 4,” to help the economy withstand the pandemic which is now in its fourth month.

But Biden assailed Trump for painting too rosy a portrait of the country’s economic and health crises.

“Quit ignoring the reality of this pandemic and the horrifying loss of American life,” Biden told Trump. “Act. Lead. Or get out of the way so others can, Mr. President.”

The United States has reported more than 128,000 coronavirus-related deaths, nearly a quarter of the global total, and more than 2.7 million cases.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert, Steve Holland and Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Tim Ahmann; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bernadette Baum