A top economic adviser to Donald Trump has predicted that the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by the 2020 presidential election in November, as the number of unemployed Americans continues to creep upward due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump administration officials expect the unemployment rate to eclipse 20 per cent by the end of May, the highest such figure since the Great Depression, senior White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said in an interview with CNN on Sunday.
"Unemployment will be something that moves back slower," Mr Hassett said.
Mr Hassett said while he expects the unemployment rate to reach an inflection point in the coming weeks and that it could improve more rapidly than current projections, "you're going to be starting at a number in the twenties and working your way down," which will be a slow process.
"If there were a vaccine in July, then I'd be way more optimistic" about getting the unemployment rate back below 10 per cent, Mr Hassett said.
The unemployment rate reached 14.7 per cent in April as businesses continued to shutter over health concerns related to Covid-19.
Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats do not appear on the same page — or even reading from the same book — for how to proceed legislatively to help stem the economic fallout from the pandemic.
Congress passed roughly $2.7trn over four coronavirus relief bills in the first two months after the health crisis picked up in March. But while House Democrats passed a fifth bill worth north of $3trn earlier this month, Senate Republicans have adopted a wait-and-see approach, dismissing the House bill as a liberal "wish list."
Mr Hassett indicated that one of the White House's top priorities with regard to unemployment will be addressing the recent expansion of the unemployment insurance policy, which pays some recently laid off people more than people who are still working.
"There's a lot of Republicans concerned that the benefit makes it so that people get more for not working than for working. And so we look forward to, you know, working with people on potentially reforming that," Mr Hassett said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also made passing liability law reform one of his party's chief concerns in any subsequent coronavirus legislation, arguing that businesses won't want to re-open if it means they could get swamped by lawsuits from patrons who later contracted Covid-19.
"for our team here, the Republican Senate majority, if there’s any red line, it’s on litigation," Mr McConnell told reporters earlier this month.
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