Several top Trump administration officials warned Sunday that the unemployment rate may already dwarf the numbers reached during the Great Depression due to the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday, the Department of Labor reported the U.S. lost 20.5 million jobs in April, bringing the unemployment rate to 14.7 percent, which was already the highest level since the Great Depression. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wanted the numbers will probably "get worse before they get better."
While on Fox News Sunday morning, Mnuchin told Chris Wallace the real unemployment rate "could be" close to 25 percent. "This is no fault of American business, this is no fault of American workers, this is a result of a virus," he explained, reports NPR. "You're going to have a very, very bad second quarter."
Kevin Hassett, a White House economic adviser, told CBS News' Face the Nation that 30 million Americans filing for unemployment insurance is "the biggest negative shock to the jobs market that we've seen since World War II." He went on to explain, "To get unemployment rates like the ones that we're about to see, to get back to your question, which I think will climb up towards 20 percent by next month, you have to really go back to the Great Depression to see that."
"I think you can expect to see jobs probably trough in May or June," Hassett added. He predicted the country will see "rates north of 20 percent" before the job market stabilizes, although he insisted was optimistic about some measures the government has taken. "We understand why the economy is slowing down and we expect that we can reverse it," he said.
Meanwhile, Larry Kudlow, director of the U.S. National Economic Council, went on ABC News' This Week, where he said there was a "glimmer of hope" inside the Department of Labor's numbers. "Eighty percent of it was furloughs and temporary layoffs," Kudlow said. "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. I think, hopefully, that has something to do with the $3 trillion of assistance, including the payroll protection plan."
Still, Kudlow had to add a disclaimer to his comments. "I don't want to sugarcoat it because I think the numbers for May are going to be also very difficult," he added. "It's going to take a while for the reopening to have an impact."
The Department of Labor released preliminary numbers for the month of April, reporting that unemployment fell by 20.5 million, with the unemployment rate reaching 14.7 percent. It was the largest single-month growth since the department began releasing data. The report does not include the last two weeks of April, when 7 million jobs were lost, notes Vox.