Jobless claims across the country have jumped by 6.6 million over the past week, amounting to more than 16 million Americans who have now filed unemployment claims in the past three weeks, due to the economic impact of the coronavirus on the nation.
In total, the unemployment rate has reportedly increased by 10 percent since the pandemic first started to have negative effects on the U.S. economy. Some experts believe that the number of unemployed Americans could go beyond 20 million by the end of this month.
As Americans struggle with the economic realities that COVID-19 has wrought, rumors abound that President Donald Trump is planning to unveil a second coronavirus task force, whose goals will include offering a roadmap on how to reopen the nation’s economy as quickly as possible.
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The task force, it is believed, will be headed by Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and will include a number of private-sector business leaders as well as administration officials whose focus is primarily on economics.
The idea of reopening the economy, however, in such an expeditious way is at odds with what many health experts say should happen, and runs counter to what Americans overall want from government leaders at this time.
The White House has expressed a desire to open up at least some of the economy by the end of April. But that target would be difficult to achieve, and Trump himself has sometimes admitted that the economy may not reopen until possibly June.
There are signs that social distancing measures are working to combat the spread of COVID-19 — the projected death toll by August has dropped by more than 25 percent, for example — but reopening the economy too quickly risks increasing the spread of the disease all over again, likely leading to another round of closing up businesses.
Besides alleviating the burdens of Americans who now find themselves jobless, the president may have ulterior political motives in reopening the economy. For much of his time in office, Trump has had polling approval numbers that have been consistently underwater, but he’s fared well on the issue of the economy in voters’ eyes.
That might change if businesses continue to shut down and Americans find themselves jobless. Indeed, polling seems to show that a drop in his approval rating on the subject is already happening.
According to a Morning Consult poll from mid-February, 53 percent of Americans gave Trump positive marks on the economy, while only 39 percent disapproved of how he’s performed in that area. A more recent poll from Morning Consult, however, conducted earlier this month shows his approval on the economy dipping down to 49 percent, with 43 percent now disapproving.
But while Trump may think this reason enough to get the economy opened back up right away, other data suggests that Americans don’t necessarily see things that way.
Another Morning Consult poll from the end of March found that voters are more concerned about the public health impact of COVID-19 (64 percent) versus the economic impact of the disease (29 percent). And 81 percent say social distancing measures should stay in place for as long as needed, while only 8 percent believe those measures should be ended in order to get the economy back on track.
It’s not clear if Trump’s new task force will be as aggressive as he’s been in the past with his desire to open things back up across the country. If they are, it’s possible that the administration will face strong opposition from the American populace overall.