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News Brief: Unemployment Numbers, Biden Outraises Trump, Seattle Protest Zone Cleared

NOEL KING, HOST:

What do rising COVID-19 cases mean for workers?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We know what the past few months have brought. The pandemic and social distancing threw millions out of work. In May, the employment picture improved as some business resumed. Today, we get the Labor Department's employment picture for June when a lot reopened, but we receive that number in July when rising case numbers are forcing some businesses to close again.

KING: NPR's chief economics correspondent Scott Horsley has been following all this whipsawing. Good morning, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.

KING: So I'm reminded that, a month ago, we thought we were going to see big losses, and then there was a nice surprise. We found out that employers had added 2 1/2 million jobs in May - added them. What are we expecting this morning?

HORSLEY: You know, no one's really sure what to expect today just because there is so much uncertainty about what's happening in the economy right now. The people who make their living trying to predict things like the monthly jobs numbers, they're offering forecasts all over the map from a low of half a million jobs to as high as 9 million jobs.

KING: Oh.

HORSLEY: So it's a pretty big dartboard. We do know some people who were furloughed during the pandemic are going back to their old jobs, some are finding new jobs. It's very possible June was a record-setting month for job growth. But at the same time, we still have tens of millions of people who are out of work. So it's a long road to repair the damage done by this pandemic.

KING: And a reminder that all of this is relative. Infection rates have been surging in a lot of states, particularly states out West. How does that change the job picture? How might it change it?

HORSLEY: It certainly complicates it. I spoke this week with Sixto Zermeno (ph). He has one of the new jobs added last month. He's a bellman at a resort in Las Vegas. He was out of work for several months in the spring and then went back to work in early June when casinos in Las Vegas reopened. And then within just a few days, he got sick with the coronavirus. He is feeling better now, but he's still in quarantine.

SIXTO ZERMENO: I was never scared, you know, of getting the virus. I'm a hard worker, so if you tell me to go to work, I'm going to go to work. But I feel nervous now because how contagious this is. I never knew how easy this spreads.

HORSLEY: Yeah, the union that represents Zermeno has filed a lawsuit against several casino operators saying they're not doing enough to protect their employees. All this is a sign of just how precarious the moment is, both in terms of people's health and also the health of the economy.

KING: Let me ask you about a specific one. Governors in a couple states have ordered bars to shut back down because they found out that that's where a lot of people are getting infected. How does something like that cut into job gains broadly?

HORSLEY: It cuts into those gains, but, you know, those shutdown orders will not be reflected in this morning's jobs report. So this report is already a little bit stale even on the day it comes out. It's a snapshot of the job market as it was about three weeks ago in mid-June. And just in the weeks since then, we've seen bars shuttered again in Texas, Florida, large parts of California. Arizona is also closing gyms and water parks and movie theaters for a month. What we've learned there in this pandemic is even without a shutdown order by the government, whenever there's a spike in new infections, people start to get more cautious about going out and spending money. Bartender Karen Schenck saw that drop in business at the bar where she works in Tucson, Ariz.

KAREN SCHENCK: You go from making $80 in tips in a couple of hours and now you're doing $15. We're risking our health for peanuts.

HORSLEY: Schenck told me it got so slow at the bar in just the last couple of weeks, she's not sure how her boss can afford to pay the air conditioning bill. And, unfortunately, as more states are now struggling with an acceleration in infections, we're going to be hearing more stories like that. It just underscores that we won't get a robust economic recovery until we get control of this virus.

KING: NPR's Scott Horsley. Scott, thanks so much.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KING: OK. So what do new fundraising numbers tell us about the presidential race?

INSKEEP: There is something revealing in the numbers for June. An incumbent president usually raises more than a challenger. Money follows power, which the president has. And incumbents are usually favored to win reelection. But in June, the usual pattern was reversed. Democrat Joe Biden's campaign raised $141 million, which is a little bit more than the president did.

KING: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is on the line. Good morning, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: So we got Biden's numbers last night - $141 million - that's big. How did he and the Democrats pull that in?

KEITH: So in June, they say that 68% of the donors were brand-new to the campaign and that the overall donation was $34. Campaigns like to emphasize the small-dollar amount. The reality is he also had some big fundraisers, including with Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, a really big one with former President Obama that brought in something like $11 million all in one fundraiser. And it's important to point out that this all comes in the context of the pandemic that Scott was just talking about. This was a quarter of fundraising solidly in the pandemic with millions of Americans out of work. But for Biden, these fundraising numbers are another data point that go with poll after poll after poll both national and state polls showing that he has an advantage, a significant advantage, at this moment in time against President Trump.

KING: President Trump and Republicans also raised a lot in June, $131 million, so not as much but a big number. What are you seeing there?

KEITH: Yeah. So the Trump campaign had been boasting about these numbers just a few hours before the Biden campaign announced theirs. And in fact, these are really good numbers, just not quite as good as what Biden and the Democrats put together. The Trump campaign is also emphasizing that it was largely grassroots fundraising, digital mail, online donations. There were a couple of in-person fundraisers that President Trump held, his first since the pandemic. And, you know, the other thing that they talk about - I talked to a major fundraiser for the Trump campaign who said, yeah - and this was right after the Tulsa rally - yes, the rally attendance wasn't great, but look at the fundraising, look at all this grassroots fundraising. I asked, well, Biden's campaign seems to be doing pretty well with fundraising. They said, look at cash in the bank, cash on hand. And the Trump campaign has nearly $300 million in the bank, in part because they started raising money almost as soon as President Trump entered office. They basically never stopped. The Biden campaign has not disclosed its figure yet for cash on hand.

KING: So we're four months out from the election. How are the campaigns using this money?

KEITH: Ads, ads, ads.

KING: Yeah.

KEITH: The Trump campaign just booked a bunch of ads in states that he won last year, booked ads for the fall, showing him to be in more of a defensive crouch.

KING: White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Tam, thanks so much.

KEITH: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KING: In Seattle, an experiment has ended.

INSKEEP: Police dismantled the Capitol Hill Occupation Protest, CHOP. Everybody called it CHOP. It was a couple of blocks in the middle of the city. Protesters demanding police reform occupied that area about a month ago and said no police were welcome. Their informal promise was the protesters would police themselves. But in the past two weeks, there were two shootings in the occupied area. Here's Police Chief Carmen Best.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CARMEN BEST: What we can't have is what we saw there where people were entrenched, where crimes and lawlessness were occurring.

INSKEEP: People who did not leave when the police moved in were arrested.

KING: Casey Martin of member station KUOW was there when police cleared the area. Hi, Casey.

CASEY MARTIN, BYLINE: Hi. Good morning.

KING: So what happened yesterday? What did this look like?

MARTIN: Yeah. This was early in the morning. The mayor of Seattle, Jenny Durkan, ordered that police go back into this area to clear out all of the camps. Dozens of people were sleeping in the tents right when it happened right outside of a police precinct. And they were told that they could either leave or be arrested. And many of them grabbed their few belongings and left, but some insisted on staying. And right away, over 20 people were arrested by police. Once people were cleared out of that zone, the city also sent in crews to take down all of the art and the tents and everything that had accumulated. Three weeks' worth of food stands and supply stations, all of this was dismantled and taken away. And police closed off all the entrances into the protest zone. And in less than an hour, an area that for weeks was police free was suddenly only police.

KING: You know, this was one of those stories I read about and I thought, gosh, I wish I could see what it looked like. What was it like without the police there?

MARTIN: Well, you know, this time last month, there were days of protests, essentially a standstill between police and protesters facing each other outside of the precinct building. There was tear gas and rubber bullets. And then pretty abruptly, the police were - abandoned the building. They were taken out of the area. And when they left, the activists stayed. And within 24 hours, they set up their own road barriers. There was a food co-op. Artists painted every available surface, including they painted Black lives matter in huge letters down the street. Volunteer medic stations started setting up, as well security as well, even armed security. They formed this little community right in the middle of a residential area. A lot of apartments are also in this protest area, a few restaurants as well. And they suddenly found themselves right in the heart of it.

KING: And then as Steve mentioned, in the past two weeks, there were two shootings. Is that what made the police decide it's time to clear this out?

MARTIN: Absolutely. This was a very peaceful area for weeks, but then multiple shootings in the last couple of weeks. Two teenagers were killed. And since then, residents were voicing that, you know, we do support the Black Lives Matter movement, but a lot of people are saying we haven't slept in weeks. We're not feeling very safe at night. And we're welcoming police back into the area. Even before the second shooting, the police chief was saying, you know, enough is enough. It's time for people to go home.

KING: OK. So some of these protesters, as you said, were taken into custody yesterday. They'll be in jail for a while, we presume. What about the rest of the protest movement? Do you think they're just going to set up somewhere else?

MARTIN: Absolutely not. I left there, and people were still outside. They had lined up across the street from the police. And people said, you know, this wasn't about a single location. This is about a movement. And it'll keep moving no matter where it goes.

KING: Fascinating. Casey Martin of KUOW. Thanks so much, Casey.

MARTIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.