The U.S. economy lost more than 20 million jobs in April amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday, sending the unemployment rate to 14.7 percent — the highest since the Great Depression.
President Trump, whose handling of the crisis has been faulted by a majority of Americans, expressed optimism that the economy will turn around.
“Those jobs will all be back, and they’ll be back very soon,” Trump said in a live interview with “Fox & Friends” at the moment the grim jobs report was released. “People are ready to go. We gotta get it open, and quickly. People are ready to go.”
Since mid-March, more than 33 million Americans have filed for unemployment.
The president said he wasn’t surprised by the staggering job losses — and that he isn’t to blame.
“It’s fully expected, there’s no surprise,” Trump said. “Even the Democrats aren’t blaming me for that. But what I can do is I can bring it back.”
He claimed that his administration had “created the greatest economy in the history of the world” before the coronavirus outbreak, which originated in China.
“We were blowing away China, we were blowing away everybody. We were the envy of the world,” the president continued. “And they came in and they explained and they said, ‘Sir, you have to turn it off. We have to close the country.’ And I said, ‘Say it again?’ They said, ‘Sir, you have to close the country.’”
In March, Trump’s coronavirus task force issued guidelines, including social distancing and other measures, for slowing the spread of the virus, which to date has killed more than 75,000 Americans and infected at least 1.2 million.
The Trump campaign released a statement echoing the president’s remarks — and criticizing former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee.
“President Trump’s record of building the American economy to unprecedented heights before it was artificially interrupted by the global coronavirus pandemic is even more salient today,” Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign communications director, said in the statement. “He is unquestionably the Jobs President and Americans will look to him and his proven success to restore the economy to greatness. President Trump is determined to open up the economy again and get us moving as soon as it is safely possible. He built the economy to historic strength and he will do it a second time.
“In stark contrast, Joe Biden presided over the slowest economic recovery since World War II and has promised to raise taxes and burden job creators with strangling regulations under the Green New Deal,” Murtaugh added. “He does nothing but sit in his basement and lob political hand grenades, serving up partisan pablum and mumbling incoherent criticisms designed to score points, not help. The choice for voters is clear: President Trump is the only one who has demonstrated that he knows how to get the economy fired up again.”
Biden hit back in a lengthy statement.
“Donald Trump utterly failed to prepare for this pandemic and delayed in taking the necessary steps to safeguard our nation against the near-worst-case-economic scenario we are now living,” Biden said. “COVID-19 caused a massive economic challenge. But this crisis hit us harder, and will last longer, because Donald Trump spent the last three years undermining the core pillars of our economic strength.
“Many small businesses have closed because of stay-at-home orders,” Biden continued. “But a lot of them won’t open again because they do not have a cushion due to three years of Trump’s policies that reward the biggest companies.
“Yes, many have lost their jobs because of this crisis,” he added. “But we are seeing so many proud families forced to endure epic lines for food boxes in football stadium parking lots because Donald Trump has spent three years tilting the playing field to the wealthy, and not the middle class. Trump has loved to crow about the great economy he built. But when the crisis hit, it became clear who that economy has been built to serve. Not workers. Not the middle class. Not families.”
Speaking on CNN, Trump senior economic adviser Kevin Hassett said the next jobs report, due in June, could show a 25 percent unemployment rate.
The president said he made the right decision to close the economy.
“If I didn’t, we would’ve lost 2 million, 2 and a half million, maybe more than that, people,” Trump said, referring to death toll projections if no action was taken.
“We’ll be at 100,000, 110, the lower level of what was projected if we did the shutdown,” he added. “But still, you’re talking about, I say, two Yankee Stadiums of people. It’s unacceptable. It’s unacceptable.”
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