US unemployment rate likely to get worse: Mnuchin

People line up at The Community Kitchen and Food Pantry in New York. The Food Bank of New York City in conjunction with this food pantry is distributing food and flowers to mark the Mother’s Day. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 11 May 2020

US unemployment rate likely to get worse: Mnuchin

  • Joblessness rate in the country surged to 14.7% in April, says Labor Department

WASHINGTON:  The staggering US unemployment rate reported by the government on Friday amid coronavirus lockdowns may get even worse, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday.

“The reported numbers are probably going to get worse before they get better,” Mnuchin told the Fox News Sunday program.

The unemployment rate surged to 14.7 percent in April, the Department of Labor reported. That shattered the post-World War Two record of 10.8 percent touched in November 1982.

Mnuchin indicated the White House was talking about more fiscal measures to ease the economic pain from the pandemic. But he said the federal government did not want to bail out states that were “poorly” managed.

However, economic adviser Larry Kudlow expressed optimism that the US economy would register a sharp recovery in the second half of the year, with Kudlow predicting “a tremendous snapback” in 2021.

Kudlow was asked on ABC’s “This Week” how US businesses could reopen with confidence when the White House — where virus protections are far more rigorous than most Americans enjoy — has recently seen at least two staff members infected.

Those cases, Kudlow said, represented a “small fraction” of the 500 or so staff members working in the White House complex.

He added that the combination of federal and state guidelines, coupled with private-sector innovation, should allow relatively safe reopening.

HIGHLIGHT

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicates the White House is talking about more fiscal measures to ease the economic pain from the pandemic.

But he emphasized that the bottom-line responsibility would be not on government but on individual businesses.

“I think that businesses, large and small, are probably going to wind up leading this charge as we attempt to reopen the economy,” he said.

Both Kudlow and Mnuchin stressed that undue delay in reopening would also come at a cost.

“I think there’s a considerable risk of NOT reopening,” the Treasury secretary said on Fox.

“You’re talking about what would be permanent economic damage to the American public, and we’re going to reopen in a very thoughtful way that gets people back to work safely.”

Kudlow, pushing back on reports of growing partisan tensions over another tranche of emergency relief, said informal talks with Democrats were under way.

But both he and Mnuchin emphasized the need to move with caution.

“We just want to make sure that before we jump back in and spend another few trillion of taxpayers’ money, that we do it carefully,” Mnuchin said.

The White House has some of the most rigorous precautions of any US venue at the moment. The president, vice president and many others are tested daily.

But President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have frequently defied the government’s own guidance about wearing protective masks.

Three members of the White House’s coronavirus task force — including top expert Anthony Fauci — are now self-isolating after potential exposure to the pathogen, US media reported Saturday.

Officials confirmed Friday that Pence’s press secretary had tested positive for the virus.

Earlier in the week, a White House valet who served Trump tested positive.


Saudi labor force figures on the rise before pandemic

Updated 1 min 18 sec ago

Saudi labor force figures on the rise before pandemic

  • Trend driven by increase in female employment, but second quarter data will reveal impact of virus on jobs

RIYADH: Saudi unemployment dipped below 12 percent in the first quarter for the first time in four years — but the government data does not reflect the impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

The Labor Force Survey published by the General Authority of Statistics (GASTAT), which was conducted in January 2020, before the pandemic, showed that the total unemployment rate amounted to 5.7 percent in the first quarter, unchanged compared to the first quarter of the previous year.

Regional economies have been hit by the double whammy of the coronavirus and weak oil prices which has forced major employers to lay off staff throughout the Gulf and led to the departure of thousands of expatriate workers.

Last week the International Labor Organization warned the outlook for the global jobs market in the second half of 2020 was “highly uncertain” and that employment was unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels this year. 

“The estimates have revised upwards considerably the damage done to our labor markets by the pandemic,” said Guy Ryder, ILO director-general.

The Saudi unemployment rate decreased to 11.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020, from 12.5 percent the same period in 2019, and compared to 12 percent in the last quarter of 2019. 

The figures also reflect an increase in the total labor force participation rate to 58.2 percent in the first three months of 2020, a jump of 1.8 percentage points compared to the same period in 2019.

GASTAT said that the stability in the unemployment rate and the increase of labor force participation rate were due to the increase in the number of employees in the survey.

That trend was driven by a decrease in the Saudi female unemployment rate that stood at 28.2 percent in the first quarter of 2020, 2.7 percentage points lower than the last quarter in 2019. 

Meanwhile the Saudi male unemployment rate rose to 5.6 percent, 0.6 percentage points higher than the rate of last quarter in 2019.

The statistics show that there are almost 9.98 million people in employment across the public and private sectors.

About 3.2 million of them are Saudis. The figures exclude workers in the security and military sectors. 

The data also reveal that there are 3.66 million domestic workers in the country, all of them non-Saudis.

The labor market statistics are compiled from two main sources. The first is the labor force survey, which is a household survey that is carried out by GASTAT and provides the most important indicators of the labor market, such as the unemployment and labor force participation rates.

The second source is administrative data which is recorded and updated by government agencies related to the labor market.