- The Washington Times - Friday, May 8, 2020

The U.S. unemployment rate hit 14.7% in April, the Labor Department reported Friday, with a staggering 20.5 million job losses that month underscoring the economic disaster wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic.

The report delivered the worst jobless numbers on record, surpassing the lows of the Great Recession of the late 2000s and putting the current economic crisis on par with the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The numbers provide a glimpse into the depth of the crisis caused by the government-ordered shutdown of the economy, and likely will heighten calls for Congress to pass another massive spending bill to rescue families, businesses and state government budgets.

The first four rescue packages have spent a total of nearly $3 trillion.

Capitol Hill Democrats had already begun working on a “Roosevelt-style” relief package.

“Today’s report makes it abundantly clear that, as this pandemic continues, more must be done to ensure that our economy is ready to surge back once it is safe to reopen,” said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.

The job market collapsed at a breathtaking pace as state governments’ orders to shutter businesses and stay at home took a toll with massive layoffs.

The unemployment rate was at a five-decade low of 3.5% in February and ticked up to 4.4% in March before skyrocketing in April.

The economic pain across the country likely exceeds the numbers in the government’s report.

The Labor Department noted that many people who lost jobs in April but didn’t look for another one were not counted in the unemployment rate. Those losses were reflected in the decline in working-age Americans who have jobs, which dropped to a record-low 51.3%.

President Trump said the unemployment numbers were “fully expected.”

“It’s no surprise,” Mr. Trump said on “Fox & Friends.” “Even the Democrats aren’t blaming me for that. Those jobs will all be back, and they’ll be back very soon.”

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden is indeed blaming Mr. Trump, accusing the president of failing to respond to the coronavirus outbreak quickly enough and allowing the economic crisis to grow worse than it should have.

“May’s gonna be another tough month,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters. “These numbers are full of hardship and heartbreak, this is a function of the pandemic, as we know.”

He predicted a rebound in the third quarter.

“The second half of the year should be very strong,” Mr. Kudlow said. “I think if we can get a pro-growth, pro-incentive policy mix, which the president firmly believes, in 2021 can be a fantastic year.”

Mr. Kudlow said Congress’ rescue package did have a “cushioning effect” on the economic numbers, citing the notion some layoffs were temporary.

He said the administration has “kind of paused” formal negotiations on another round of relief legislation, saying they need a “month or so” to evaluate the impact of the bills.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said the numbers underscore the “devastating” impact of the coronavirus and underscore the need for another round of stimulus. He called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to work with his side on the next round.

“No one could look at today’s jobs report, the highest unemployment since the Great Depression, and say we should hit the pause button on further government action, as Leader McConnell, Leader McCarthy and the Trump White House have said. We need a big, bold approach now to support American workers and families,” the New York Democrat said. “Republicans who choose inaction in the face of these historic economic and health crises will be taking the same misguided path as Herbert Hoover.”

Democrats have pushed for money to assist states and localities that are going broke from the crisis.

Mr. Kudlow reiterated Mr. Trump’s push for payroll tax cuts and liability limits to shield reopening businesses as part of any new round of negotiations. He also said businesses should receive tax write-off to deal with expenses they incur in reopening.

Dave Boyer and Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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