Politics

Coronavirus fallout: Treasury chief Mnuchin says record unemployment claims 'aren't relevant' right now

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Key Points
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said record-setting unemployment filing numbers as the coronavirus pandemic grows "right now aren't relevant."
  • Mnuchin said "the good news" is a $2 trillion relief bill working its way through Congress that is aimed at alleviating income losses and other financial fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.
  • There were 3.28 million new unemployment claims reported for the past week, 4.7 times higher than the prior weekly record of 695,000.
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Mnuchin: Jobless claims numbers are 'not relevant right now'

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin waved aside jaw-dropping new jobless claims by more than 3 million Americans on Thursday morning, saying that the record-setting unemployment filing numbers "right now aren't relevant."

Mnuchin said "the good news" is a $2 trillion relief bill working its way through Congress that is aimed at alleviating income losses and other financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

He said that the aim of that package is that many people who have recently lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus outbreak will get hired back by their employers with this relief.

Asked on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" what his reaction was to seeing the 3.28 million new unemployment claims reported for the past week, Mnuchin said, "To be honest, I think these numbers right now aren't relevant whether they're bigger or shorter in the short term."

That number of jobless claims is a whopping 4.7 times higher than the prior weekly record of 695,000, which was set in October 1982.

"Obviously, there are people who have jobless claims, and the good thing about the bill is the president is protecting those people," Mnuchin said.

"So now with these plans, small businesses hopefully will be able to hire back a lot of those people."

Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury secretary, listens during a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.
Sarah Silbiger | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"Last week they didn't know if they had protections. They didn't have any cash," Mnuchin said.

"Now with this bill passed by Congress, there are protections, and, as I said, hopefully those workers will be rehired."

The relief bill will give many Americans one-time direct payments of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples, with $500 added for every child. It would also boost unemployment insurance, adding $600 per week for up to four months on top of what beneficiaries normally receive from states. The bill also would expand eligibility to self-employed people and independent contractors.

In an interview on Fox News, Peter Navarro, the top trade negotiator for President Donald Trump, sounded a similar theme on the job losses as Mnuchin did.

"This is no surprise, this is expected," said Navarro.

"And you should accept the news, because we're doing what we need to do to combat the virus," he said.

The White House later Thursday issued a statement, saying,  As the President has said, Americans are making enormous sacrifices and he is grateful for their spirit."

"The large increase in unemployment claims is just one of the many reasons why President Trump committed weeks ago to take care of all Americans, including affected industries and small businesses, so that we emerge from this challenge stronger and with a prosperous and growing economy," the statement said.

"The White House commends the action of the Senate last night and believes the House should pass the CARES Act without delay."