Donald Trump said he hoped George Floyd was “looking down right now” as he trumpeted a surprise decline in the nation’s unemployment rate, saying “this is a great day for him, this is a great day for everybody”.

It was revealed on Friday that May’s jobless rate fell to 13.3 per cent from April’s 14.7 per cent – a post-World War II high – despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which had many pundits predicting a jobless rate of 20 per cent or more.

The president crowed on Twitter all morning before making an at-times rambling speech in the White House rose garden, in which he brought up Mr Floyd – who was killed by police on Memorial Day after an officer forced his knee on the back of his neck for nearly nine minutes while facing the ground in handcuffs.

He said: “We all saw what happened last week. We can’t let that happen. Hopefully George is looking down and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. (It’s) a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality.”

It was widely interpreted as the president saying that Mr Floyd would be pleased with the newly released employment figures, after he’d earlier invoked race while discussing the employment rate pre-Covid, and hammered home the fact that the once-booming economy was a boon “for African Americans, for Hispanic Americans, and for Asian Americans, and for everybody”.

Later in the day, the Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh insisted that this was a purposeful misrepresentation which had been “maliciously crafted” by the media.

While the decline signals recovery among some industries, and a potentially less severe of a blow from a looming recession, the US unemployment rate remains higher than at any point during the financial crisis of the late 2000s.

But unemployment among black Americans has increased by 0.1 per cent and by 0.5 per cent among Asian Americans.