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The White House has decided against releasing a new round of updated economic projections this summer in an unprecedented move as the country continues to reel financially from the coronavirus-spurred downturn.
The Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), the internal White House economic team, will not send out their projections this summer – despite assurances from a number of top Trump administration advisers that the economy will swiftly recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression. The numbers are normally produced jointly by the Office of Management and Budget, CEA and Treasury Department.
“It is foolish to demand such a forecast simply because that is business as usual, particularly when that forecast may mislead the public,” one administration official familiar with the decision told the Hill.
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The news that no new economic projections will be released this summer comes as an estimated 2.1 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week.
The figures underscored the continuing damage to businesses and livelihoods from the outbreak that has now killed at least 100,000 people in the U.S., more than the number of Americans lost in the Vietnam and Korean wars combined, and more than 33 times the death toll on 9/11.
The U.S. unemployment rate was 14.7 percent in April, the highest since the Depression, and many economists expect it will near 20 percent in May.
First-time applications for unemployment, though still extraordinarily high, have fallen for eight straight weeks, and states are gradually letting stores, restaurants, salons, gyms and other businesses reopen. But other employers are still laying off workers in the face of a deep recession.
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The Labor Department report included a positive sign: The number of people now receiving benefits fell for the first time since the outbreak intensified in mid-March, from 25 million to 21 million. That suggests companies are starting to rehire and could mean that total job losses will peak in May.
Still, economists say many of the jobs lost are never coming back, and double-digit unemployment could persist through 2021.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.