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)
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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.


Iran rial slides to new low as coronavirus, sanctions weigh

Updated 04 July 2020

Iran rial slides to new low as coronavirus, sanctions weigh

  • The dollar was offered for as much as 215,500 rials, softening from 208,200 on Friday
  • The rial lost about 70% of its value in the months after May 2018 as Iranians snapped up dollars

DUBAI: The Iranian rial fell to a new low against the US dollar on the unofficial market on Saturday, as the economy comes under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic and US sanctions.
The dollar was offered for as much as 215,500 rials, softening from 208,200 on Friday, according to foreign exchange site Bonbast.com. The economic daily Donya-e-Eqtesad’s website gave the dollar rate as 215,250, compared with 207,500 on Friday.
In May 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a multilateral deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program and reimposed sanctions that have since battered the economy.
A drop in oil prices and a slump in the global economy have deepened the economic crisis in the country, which also has the highest death toll in the Middle East from the pandemic.
The rial’s decline has continued despite assurances from Iranian Central Bank Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati last week that the bank had injected hundreds of millions of dollars to stabilize the currency market.
The rial lost about 70% of its value in the months after May 2018 as Iranians snapped up dollars, fearing Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and sanctions could shrink vital oil exports and severely impact the economy.
The official exchange rate is 42,000 rials per dollar and is used mostly for imports of state-subsidised food and medicine.