The nation's unemployment could drop back down below 10% by the end of this year, and millions of jobs could return in the next few weeks as people return to work after shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said Thursday.
"I think that's achievable, [but] obviously, there are a number of things that will depend on," Scalia said on Fox News' "Mornings With Maria." "We know that many people are in the position of starting to go back to work."
Scalia said states that opened earlier than others are still not seeing spikes in their virus numbers, and that leaves an "opportunity now to return millions upon millions of jobs in the next few weeks, as we do reopen."
The high job losses came from a situation that was "self-imposed" and meant to be temporary, Scalia said.
"A lot of those jobs are still there, and if we can get back to work promptly, safely, we have a chance of coming out of this more quickly than with downturns we've had in the past," Scalia said. "I do think that getting that unemployment number around 10% is within the realm of what is achievable."
According to the Labor Department, states' jobless rolls shrunk for the first time since the pandemic began, showing signs that people are starting to return to work. Continuing claims, which tally Americans’ ongoing benefit claims, dropped to 21.1 million for the week ending May 16.
Scalia acknowledged that 2.1 million more people going into unemployment "is a large number," but the continuing claims numbers dropped by 3.9 million, and he thinks a "lot of headway" will be made this year.
Meanwhile, the administration is looking at changes to the Paycheck Protection Program legislation, and there are many people in the restaurant industry who have said its initial 8 weeks provision isn't enough to get people back to work, said Scalia.
As a whole, the program has been "remarkably successful," as it has allowed an estimated 50 million American workers to stay on their companies' payrolls, said Scalia.
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