Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his backers seized on a U.S. jobs report Friday showing the weakest hiring in more than five years as evidence the country needs to move away from the economic policies of a Democratic White House.
The New York real estate mogul is making job creation one of his main themes in what is expected to be a close race for the White House in November against likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and first lady.
The monthly Labor Department report showed the U.S. economy added just 38,000 jobs in May, the smallest gain since 2010, opening up a potential chink in the economic armor of the Democratic Party.
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.
Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, criticized the report early Friday, writing on Twitter: “Terrible jobs report just reported. Only 38,000 jobs added. Bombshell!”
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus quickly followed, saying the “devastating” report was a “sign we need to move away from failed Obama policies” that he said Democrat Hillary Clinton would keep.
Clinton is likely to finally clinch the Democratic nomination over challenger Bernie Sanders on June 7 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.
Neither Democratic campaign immediately responded to a request to comment on Friday’s jobs report.
But Clinton, who has run in part on a platform of building on President Barack Obama’s policies, could be hurt by the report, strategists said.
“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.
In the Nov. 8 general election match-up, likely to be between Trump and Clinton, 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 rewrite 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 the jobs report.
(Additional reporting by Chris Kahn in New York; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Alistair Bell)