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.”

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate