Dear Commons Community,
The Labor Department reported on Friday that the unemployment rate hit a record 14.7%, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said yesterday that the actual rate could be closer to 25%.
The latter figure would match the joblessness rate during the Great Depression, which is estimated to have peaked at 24.9% in 1933.
On “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace asked Mnuchin (see video above) about the Labor Department’s report, which excluded the 7 million jobs lost since April 18, the millions of people not currently looking for work, and people who are underemployed.
Wallace noted that a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the rate actually hit 22.8% in April. That report accounted for workers not looking for jobs and the underemployed; however, it did not include the millions of jobs lost after mid-April.
“Aren’t we talking close to 25% at this point, which is Great Depression neighborhood?” Wallace asked.
“Chris, we could be,” Mnuchin said. “But let me just emphasize: Unlike the Great Depression where you had economic issues that led to this, we closed down the economy. So it wouldn’t be a surprise if you closed down the economy that in half of the workforce, half the people didn’t work.”
He continued: “That’s why we’re very focused on rebuilding this economy and getting back to where it was. This is no fault of American business. This no fault of American workers. This is the result of a virus. … You are correct. The reported numbers are probably going to get worse before they get better.”
White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett told CBS’ “Face The Nation” in an interview that aired Sunday that the unemployment rate could climb to “north” of 20% because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused businesses across the country to shut down.
“The fact is we’re burning up initial claims for unemployment insurance right now at a rate of about 3 million a week running through the rest of the month,” he said.
This obviously is not good news. We are grateful to Mnuchin and Hassett for their honesty which is not the long suit of this administration particularly the President.