Trump finds opening in Democratic defenses after weak U.S. jobs report
WASHINGTON, June 3 - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his backers seized on a U.S. jobs report on Friday that showed the weakest hiring in more than five years, calling it evidence that the country needs to move away from Democratic economic policies.
The report gave Trump his biggest opening yet to target Democratic rival Hillary Clinton on the economy, after months of mostly solid economic indicators.
Trump called the monthly Labor Department report, which showed the smallest gain in jobs since 2010, a "bombshell." The chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, called it a "sign we need to move away from failed Obama policies" that he said Clinton would stick to.
"It puts Hillary Clinton in a tough position," said Lanhee Chen, who was the top policy adviser to 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. "It's a tough number, obviously, for someone who is running as a continuation of the last eight years."
An official for Clinton's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
The unemployment rate, meanwhile, fell three-tenths of a percentage point to 4.7 percent, the lowest level since November 2007, but that was in part due to people dropping out of the labor force. Overall, nonfarm payrolls increased by only 38,000 jobs in May.
Clinton, front-runner to be the Democratic nominee for the Nov. 8 election, has credited President Barack Obama for reviving the U.S. economy after the 2008 recession but has also said that the recovery is not over.
If disappointing jobs reports continue, Trump could use Clinton's pledge to build on Obama's work against her to woo working-class voters in states such as Ohio. The state has lost well-paying manufacturing jobs and is also a presidential battleground - closely competitive because it does not lean heavily either Republican or Democratic.
Former Secretary of State Clinton is likely to finally clinch the Democratic nomination over challenger Bernie Sanders on Tuesday when six states hold nominating contests. One is California, which has more Democratic delegates than any other state and where both have been campaigning heavily.
WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY
Trump, a real estate developer, has already sewn up the Republican nomination. In the general election campaign, job creation plans are expected to be a priority, particularly in states that have been hit hard by manufacturing-sector job losses.
Trump has promised to toss out international trade deals to revive U.S. manufacturing and sweep away a slew of environmental regulations to bolster the ailing energy sector.
Job creation in the manufacturing and construction sectors fell sharply in May, according to Friday's jobs report.
Trump has already begun working economic numbers into his stump speeches. He has said he could put 15 states that have voted for Democratic presidents in recent elections in play, including Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, which have all lost manufacturing sector jobs.
Peter Morici, a conservative economist and professor in the business school at the University of Maryland, said the poor jobs numbers reflected trends that have driven voter frustration and fueled the populist campaigns of both Trump and Sanders.
He said Trump needed to add detail to his economic policies, such as detailing changes to social programs like Medicaid. "We can't just turn around and cut income taxes without doing something about those things," Morici said.
Republican strategists agreed Friday's jobs report created an opportunity for Trump to differentiate his policies from Obama's or Clinton's.
"It allows Donald Trump to tout how he would do things differently as president and focus on some of the job-creation plans that he has," Republican strategist Ron Bonjean said, adding it would also allow him to talk about his record as a businessman.
Trump has been fleshing out his foreign policy ideas and has released a tax plan, but he has been light on other details, such as how he would oversee the U.S. financial system.
(Additional reporting by Chris Kahn in New York; Editing by Alistair Bell and Frances Kerry)