Trump Administration Asking States To Delay Releasing Unemployment Numbers As Economy Tanks

President Donald Trump speaks as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin looks on during a briefing about the coronavirus outbreak in the press briefing room at the White House on March 17, 2020 in Washington, D.C.
Drew Angerer / Getty Images

To prevent further unsettling on Wall Street, the Trump administration has requested that state labor officials hold off on releasing data on the numbers of recent unemployment claims they’ve received. According to The New York Times, the Labor Department sent an email Wednesday requesting that states release only generalities like “a large increase” rather than provide specific numbers of the unemployment claims they’re receiving, a move likely made to reduce the impact that the coronavirus is having on the economy.

The request is yet another indication that the administration is worried about the economic outlook as businesses are forced to shutter temporarily during the coronavirus outbreak and the stock market has continually dropped to levels below where they were before President Donald Trump took office.

“States should not provide numeric values to the public,” Gay Gilbert, administrator of the Labor Department’s Office of Unemployment Insurance, wrote in the email. Instead, they should “provide information using generalities to describe claims levels (very high, large increase).”

Reportedly, some states were unsettled by the directions, and officials in one state sought to consult with their attorney general to determine if they should withhold the numbers.

It’s already clear that people are losing their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, with a 33 percent spike last week alone in unemployment filings nationwide. Experts at Goldman Sachs estimate that 2.25 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the past week, eight times the amounts from previous weeks.

There are concerns that the national unemployment rate could reach as high as 20 percent as a result of the pandemic, a number that hasn’t been seen in the United States since the Great Depression. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned that without a rescue package from the Senate, that number wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.

When asked about Mnuchin’s predictions, Trump dismissed the concerns, as reported by CNN.

“I don’t agree with that — that’s an absolute total worst-case scenario,” the president said in response. “We’re nowhere near it.”

The exact numbers will be released next Thursday, according to the email sent out to the states by the Labor Department.

The COVID-19 outbreak has had an unprecedented impact on the country, with businesses like airlines and restaurants devastated as people hunker down in their homes. Most recently, the entire state of California was given the order to stay at home in order to prevent the spread of the disease.