Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says record-shattering jobless claims ‘are not relevant’ as coronavirus drives up unemployment

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that record-breaking jobless numbers released on Thursday “are not relevant” in a CNBC interview

The Labor Department released data showing nearly 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment for the week ending March 21. Asked about his thoughts on those figures, Mnuchin downplayed the spike.

“To be honest with you, I think these numbers right now are not relevant, whether they’re bigger or smaller in the short-term,” Mnuchin said. “Obviously, there are people who have jobless claims.”

He touted benefits from the colossal $2 trillion coronavirus economic rescue package, saying it will provide relief checks to many Americans within three weeks. 

“The good thing about this bill is, the president is protecting these people,” the Treasury secretary said.

The Trump administration struck a deal with top Democrats to pass the legislation on Wednesday. The bill swiftly passed the Senate in a 96-0 vote and it’s now headed to the House. The president said he would sign the huge relief package.

Read more: Don’t know when to get back into stocks? JPMorgan shares 3 timing tools for re-entry into a coronavirus-ravaged market — including one that’s screaming ‘buy’ right now

Experts, though, say that any further spikes in unemployment could deepen the downturn and inflict additional damage onto the economy.

“The further unemployment rises, the deeper the economic downturn will be and the longer it will last as productive capacity is eroded,” Seema Shah, chief strategist at Principal Global Investors, told Business Insider’s Carmen Reinicke.

Economists expect more Americans to be laid off as a result of businesses cutting their spending in the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged over 800 points on Thursday morning, as investors were optimistic that the coronavirus economic package would help arrest the free-fall of the economy.

President Trump has publicly signaled over the past week that he’s willing to have the economy “re-opened” in the near future, possibly by Easter. But public health officials are urging to keep social distancing measures in place for several more weeks to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

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