By Joshua Jamerson and Rebecca Ballhaus
President Trump cast GDP growth in the most recent quarter as
proof that the pandemic-induced economic collapse was turning a
corner thanks to his administration, even as other indicators show
many Americans continue to suffer financial strain.
The Commerce Department, in a report Thursday that provided the
last major quantitative snapshot of the economy before the
presidential election just five days away, indicated that the
economy grew at a record pace in the third quarter. The U.S.
recovered a good chunk of pandemic losses but the country is still
below where it ended 2019.
Mr. Trump, who trails Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden
in many battleground-state polls, is following a playbook used by
other incumbent presidents facing tough re-election contests. In
1992, President George H.W. Bush tried to convince voters toward
the end of that year's campaign that the economy was turning
around; voters didn't believe him, electing Bill Clinton
For Mr. Trump, the bet is that voters won't fault him for the
strain that the coronavirus has placed on the economy, which had
seen consistent growth under Mr. Trump's watch before the pandemic.
He has also warned that a Biden administration would bring a "steep
"GDP number just announced. Biggest and Best in the History of
our Country, and not even close. Next year will be FANTASTIC!!!"
Mr. Trump tweeted Thursday morning, saying that Mr. Biden's
proposed tax increases on the wealthy would undercut growth. "So
glad this great GDP number came out before November 3rd," the
Mr. Trump's political supporters, including his family members,
cast the growth as evidence of the president's masterful handling
of the economy. Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, tweeted:
"THE GREAT AMERICAN COMEBACK!" The Trump campaign has been running
Facebook ads, punctuated by rocket emojis, hailing the president's
leadership of the economy.
Mr. Biden said many Americans won't feel like they are better
off following Thursday's GDP and job figures.
"This report underscores three inescapable truths about Donald
Trump's economy: we are in a deep hole and President Trump's
failure to act has meant that Q3 growth wasn't nearly enough to get
us out of; the recovery is slowing if not stalling; and the
recovery that is happening is helping those at the top, but leaving
tens of millions of working families and small businesses behind,"
Mr. Biden said. He added that without a deal in Congress on
additional stimulus funding, Mr. Trump "still has no plan to get
our country through this crisis and move us forward."
Mr. Biden has proposed a $700 billion plan to revive the U.S.
economy, a strategy he says will rebuild the economy faster than
Mr. Trump's proposals.
The recovery is expected to slow in the fourth quarter as the
temporary jolt from the economy's reopening and government stimulus
fades, with unemployment expected to remain high this winter. The
Wall Street Journal's October survey of economists found that more
than half of respondents don't expect GDP will return to its
pre-pandemic level until next year and that the economy will
contract 3.6% this year, measured from the fourth quarter of
Messrs. Trump and Biden have promised to create millions of jobs
and further heal the economy if elected on Nov. 3. Analysts project
the economy will end 2020 smaller than a year earlier, but grow in
2021. The U.S. as of September has recovered about half of the 22
million jobs lost in March and April, at the beginning of the
The number of Americans filing initial claims for unemployment
insurance fell last week to the lowest level since the pandemic
began, though claims remain exceptionally high by historical
standards. Daily virus infections reached new highs over the past
week, and it is too early to tell how employers and consumers will
According to the Associated Press, 73.3 million early ballots
have been cast so far. That surpasses the early-vote tally four
years ago, when 58.8 million people cast early or mail-in ballots.
Thirty-nine states, and the District of Columbia, have already
topped 2016 early-voting levels.
Mr. Biden's closing campaign argument centers around connecting
the prolonged economic fallout to Mr. Trump's handling of the
Mr. Biden, who is scheduled to make stops in Florida on Thursday
where the president is also campaigning, said earlier this week
that Mr. Trump "crashed the economy that Barack and I left him. But
we can build back better with an economy that rewards work, not
Democrats are framing the nation's economic bounceback as a
long-term fight. Mr. Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of
California, told reporters Wednesday while campaigning in Nevada
that the country's recovery won't be "like flipping a light
Mr. Biden's political supporters cast the fresh economic figures
as proof that the U.S. has a long way to go. "If you lost $100 and
then got back $65, would you feel well off? That's what today's GDP
number means, " tweeted Steven Rattner, a Democratic financier and
former Obama administration official.
Heading into the 2020 campaign, Mr. Trump expected the booming
economy to be the centerpiece of his re-election effort, with the
economy one of the few issues where he has consistently outpaced
Mr. Biden in polling. In a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll taken
Sept. 30-Oct. 1, voters viewed Mr. Trump as better suited than Mr.
Biden to handle the economy, 48% to 41%.
Under the Trump administration, the U.S. reached historic
milestones for jobs, income and stock prices until March, when the
pandemic upended the economy.
Mr. Trump has spent weeks predicting a record level of GDP
growth. At a rally in Bullhead City, Ariz., on Wednesday, he urged
supporters to "hold off on your vote until it happens," telling the
crowd: "If that number's not big, you don't even have to vote for
Write to Joshua Jamerson at email@example.com and Rebecca
Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 29, 2020 11:44 ET (15:44 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.