Sacking comes as tens of millions of Americans are out of work and Trump is trailing Biden in polls.

United States President Donald Trump said Monday that he had fired the chair of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) saying the executive was getting paid too much and was hiring foreign workers.

Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday that he is formally removing the TVA’s chair of the board and another member of the board. He also threatened to remove other board members if they keep hiring foreign labour.

The sacking comes as the fragile US labour market recovery shows signs of stalling, with the number of Americans filing for state jobless benefits trending higher for two weeks straight.

With less than 100 days until US voters cast their ballots, Trump is trailing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in the polls and Republicans and Democrats in Congress are still haggling over how generous a lifeline to throw to the tens of millions of Americans who are collecting unemployment benefits.

The TVA is a federally owned corporation created in 1933 to provide flood control, electricity generation, fertiliser manufacturing and economic development to the Tennessee Valley, a region that was hard hit by the Great Depression. The region covers most of Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky as well as small sections of Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

Trump said the TVA board must immediately hire a new chief executive officer who “puts the interests of Americans first”. According to Trump, the CEO earns $8m a year.

“The new CEO must be paid no more than $500,000 a year,” Trump said. “We want the TVA to take action on this immediately … Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board: If you betray American workers, you will hear two words: ‘You’re fired’.”

US Tech Workers, a nonprofit that wants to limit visas given to foreign technology workers, took out an advertisement to persuade Trump to stop the TVA from outsourcing much of its information technology division.

The group, led by Kevin Lynn, criticised the TVA for furloughing its own workers and replacing them with contractors using foreign workers with H-1B visas.

Trump made the announcement as he signed an executive order requiring all federal agencies to complete an internal audit to prove they are not replacing qualified US workers with people from other countries. The White House said the order will help prevent federal agencies from unfairly replacing American workers with lower-cost foreign labour.

The order followed the TVA’s announcement that it would outsource 20 percent of its technology jobs to companies based in foreign countries. TVA’s action could cause more than 200 highly skilled American tech workers in Tennessee to lose their jobs to foreign workers hired on temporary work visas, according to the White House.

But Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said the TVA does not get any taxpayer money. Commenting on the issue in April, Alexander said the White House was spreading misinformation. He said that TVA chief executive officers’ pay is lower than other large utilities and that TVA energy rates are among the lowest in the nation.