President Donald Trump said a government report Friday showing massive U.S. job losses from the coronavirus outbreak isn’t a surprise and that he shouldn’t be blamed for it.
The Labor Department announced Friday that the U.S. lost 20.5 million jobs in April, as the nation enacted social-distancing practices that collapsed the economy. The unemployment rate tripled to 14.7%.
“It’s fully expected. There’s no surprise,” he said on “Fox & Friends,” where he was being interviewed as the report was released. “Somebody said, ‘Oh, look at this.’ Well, even the Democrats aren’t blaming me for that, but what I can do is I’ll bring it back.”
Trump expressed confidence that employment numbers could snap back quickly, given the nature of the shutdown.
“We artificially closed it. Those jobs will all be back, and they’ll be back very soon and next year we’re going to have a phenomenal year. People are ready to go. We’ve got to get it open, safely. People are ready to go,” he said.
Trump has been criticized for responding slowly to the virus. Federal mitigation measures only ramped up in mid-March in the U.S., which now has the world’s highest confirmed case total and death toll.
Without mitigation measures that impacted the economy, such as closing businesses and schools and ordering people to stay at home, two million people or more would have died from the virus spread, Trump said.
“We were blowing away everybody. We were the envy of the world and then they came in and they explained it and they said, ‘Sir, you have to turn it off,’” Trump said Friday. “Nobody ever heard of a thing like this, but they were right.”
Back in February, before the coronavirus pandemic brought the U.S. economy to a standstill, the rate hovered at just 3.5%. That had been the lowest level in five decades. April’s is the highest since just after the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The Labor Department said the unadjusted unemployment rate in April would have been almost 5 percentage points higher had workers been classified as unemployed on temporary layoff, rather than employed but absent from work due to other reasons. Furloughed workers accounted for about 4 out of every 5 unemployed Americans.
April’s losses erase roughly all of the jobs that the economy had added in this past decade’s expansion and lay bare just how precarious employment is for vast swaths of Americans.
With a steep recession now in progress, the destruction of jobs heaps election-year pressure on Trump to restart the economy and show results by November. But with little containment of a contagious disease that’s killed 75,000 Americans and counting, business is returning unevenly and slowly if at all, and signs are mounting that many employers will be forced to make the cuts permanent.
Almost every industry was hit hard. Leisure and hospitality employers cut 7.65 million, manufacturers cut 1.33 million positions and retailers 2.1 million. Even health care jobs fell by 1.44 million as non-Covid visits and elective procedures dried up or offices closed.
The job losses may also fan calls for a fourth round of fiscal aid from Congress on top of trillions of dollars already dispatched, even with signs many Americans are having difficulty tapping the funds. The Federal Reserve is likely to keep pumping money into the economy while leaving interest rates near zero for an extended period.
While the pandemic has crushed economies around the world, job losses hurt more in the U.S. than in most other developed nations. That’s because about 160 million Americans get health insurance through employers, and without jobs, they could face steep monthly premiums or lose coverage entirely -- which may exacerbate the economic impact of Covid-19.
The response rate for the household survey -- which determines the unemployment rate -- was 13 percentage points lower than usual, as in-person visits were halted. The establishment survey’s response rate was in line with typical rates.
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