Trump Officials Have Bad News About the Economy

The unemployment rate could rise to more than 20 percent, they say.

When Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin joined news anchor Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday this morning, he shared a grim picture of the state of America’s economy.

“Mr. Secretary, what is the real unemployment rate in the United States as we talk today?” Wallace asked, referencing a Friday report from the Department of Labor that estimated the unemployment rate at 14.7 percent as of April 18, not including the people who aren’t actively looking for work due to the current pandemic. 

Mnuchin dodged the question at first, but Wallace pressed on. “The Bureau of Labor Statistics says what they call the ‘real unemployment number’ for April” which includes people who are not looking for work, “is 22.8 percent,” Wallace said. But that does not include “the 7 million people who have lost their jobs since [April 18]. Aren’t we talking close to 25 percent at this point, which is Great Depression neighborhood?”

“Chris, we could be,” Mnuchin answered. And it will likely get worse. Unlike the Great Depression, he said, the unemployment rate is a result of artificially shutting the economy down because of the coronavirus. “It wouldn’t be a surprise if you close down the economy that half the workforce didn’t work.”

Mnuchin’s outlook was very much in line with appearances by other Trump officials on the Sunday morning news shows.

White House Economic Adviser Kevin Hassett told CBS’ Margaret Brennan that he expects unemployment to bottom out in May or June at “rates north of 20 [percent].” He added, “We understand why the economy is slowing down, and we expect that we can reverse it.”

Meanwhile, White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, “I don’t want to sugarcoat it because I think the numbers for May are going to be also very difficult numbers. It’s going to take a while for the reopening to have an impact.”

While it’s unclear how many Americans will get their jobs back when the pandemic is over, Kudlow offered viewers a “glimmer of hope” in the new unemployment numbers: “Eighty percent of it was furloughs and temporary layoffs. That, by the way, doesn’t assure that you will go back to a job, but it says strongly that the cord between the worker and the business is still intact.”

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