White House economic experts expect increase in unemployment rate

Alex Brandon | AP

Alex Brandon | AP

White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said the Trump administration has been monitoring economic activity in response to previous stimulus packages and projections related to the COVID-19 pandemic as governors and Congress have called for a bill with as much as $1 trillion in additional funding for state and local governments.

The so-called "phase four" coronavirus-related relief package is now in the works in Congress, after many businesses across the country were forced to shut down and more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs in April alone due to the lockdown. This mind-numbing jobless rate of 14.7% was unquestionably the highest level in one month since the Great Depression.

Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin now asserts the worst job losses being inflicted by the raging COVID-19 pandemic has yet to come and foresees a "very, very bad second quarter".

"We understand this impact", Mnuchin said. 'I think that I'd be a lot safer if I was sitting at home than I would be going to the West Wing. "I see the glass as half full, not half empty". President Donald Trump has also urged Americans to start resuming normal life.

Mnuchin said, "If we do this carefully, I don't think there is a considerable risk".

At local levels, some states, counties and localities have made a decision to begin reopening by permitting non-essential businesses to operate and opening up areas that were shutdown to maintain social distancing guidelines - like beaches, golf courses and marinas.

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The U.S. has already authorized pumping more than $3 trillion into the economy, with assistance for unemployed workers and closed businesses.

Mnuchin has previously claimed the battered US economy will bounce back by summer from the COVID-19 pandemic in a strong V-shaped recovery marked by a surge in consumer spending.

Hassett predicted that about another three million US workers a week would file for unemployment benefits through the end of May. "And we expect that we can reverse it".

"We see an unemployment rate that approaches rates we saw during the Great Depression", he pointed out.

"So, I think if you look at the Congressional Budget Office, they now forecast that the second half of the year will be one of recovery", he said. Advisers said last week the White House would not consider new stimulus legislation in May. "And so I think you could expect to see jobs probably trough, you know, in May or June". The infection and death rates in the USA also continue to soar. "We've been very clear that we're not going to do things just to bail out states that were poorly managed". But the fact is that if you think about the things that would happen that would make it hard to turn on the economy, that's like bankruptcies and business failures and so on.

"I think that it's just premature, given that the $9 trillion of aid that passed in the last three phases, given that that is still out there and there's still a bunch of it that's going to be delivered over the next month, we think we have the luxury of a moment to learn about what's going on so the next step we take can be prudent", Hassett told CNN on Sunday.

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