President Donald Trump came to the White House briefing room Thursday morning to tout new employment numbers showing that 4.8 million jobs were added in June, calling it "spectacular news."
"Today's announcement proves that our economy is roaring back" from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump said.
Economic experts have said the numbers could be deceptive, showing only a temporary comeback before unemployment rises again.
He indirectly acknowledged the nationwide record surge in new cases in "some places where we're putting out the flames, the fires."
The president said his administration was working with governors to deal with the worsening crisis. "Getting rid of the flame, Trump said. "It's happening."
"The crisis is being handled," he said.
Trump predicted a strong third quarter as well.
"The good thing is the numbers will be coming out just prior to the election, so people will be able to see those," he added.
After the president departed without taking questions, his economic advisers continued to defend the administration's push to reopen the economy amid the coronavirus even as some states have since had to reverse course due to a surge in cases.
“I wouldn't say reverse, I would say the states appropriately are pausing certain things, like bars and gyms, which obviously are the more contagious types of things, and I think that the states are acting appropriately,” Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said as he played down the fact that some states have had to roll back their reopenings.
Asked if the White House regretted encouraging states to reopen so quickly, Mnuchin replied: "Absolutely not. I think we've had a very careful plan, again, working with the states. This is primarily the states' responsibility."
While Mnuchin sought to place primary responsibility on the states, he said he thinks they have struck "the right balance and we're working with the states on the health issues and the economic issues."
"If you have to phase out, as Steven said, phase out bars, so be it, for a few weeks, I think some places might have been over-exuberant," the president's top economic Larry Kudlow added.
Mnuchin also defended the president’s not wearing masks even as the administration is now encouraging the general public to wear them.
“Because he’s the president of the United States and people are not around him close and the people who are around are tested, I don't think he needs to wear a mask, but the rest of us and absolutely in the president support wearing a mask,” Mnuchin said.
He noted in his opening remarks that he and Kudlow were not wearing masks because they had both been tested.
Asked by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl if he’s concerned about new unemployment claims rising, Mnuchin said “we're going to be concerned until every single person is back to work but said the numbers have to be considered within the context of the current situation and argued that the focus should be on the jobs numbers, which he said are “the most accurate numbers”
Mnuchin spoke briefly about additional assistance the administration plans to negotiate with Congress. "There are going to be a number of businesses that are particularly hard hit, and we're going to be looking at giving those businesses additional money," Mnuchin said.
Mnuchin also said the federal government is "working with schools and universities" to make sure students can return to school safely in the fall.
“I think in most cases schools will be able to open safely. Some schools will need to spend money,” he said, suggesting the administration will “absolutely” support funding in the next stimulus to support schools that may need to spend on equipment and other resources to allow for social distancing.