Senior White House officials were warning Americans to brace for shocking May unemployment numbers this weekend, but they didn’t expect them to be shockingly good.
Despite the combined catastrophes of COVID-19 and widespread riots, Breitbart News reported on Friday that “The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent and payrolls unexpectedly rose by 2.5 million workers as the easing of restrictions on business activity and government aid led to new hiring in May.”
After weeks of shedding jobs due to coronavirus lockdowns, the US hit an all-time unemployment high in April, at 14.7 percent — The highest unemployment rate since official record-keeping began in 1948.
As the coronavirus crisis hit in March, Donald Trump authorized more than 600 deregulatory actions to support the economy, supply chain, and healthcare system during the pandemic. Then, in late May, Trump signed an executive order making those deregulatory actions permanent.
On May 20, Trump signed the Executive Order on Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery, which directed federal agencies to evaluate and remove regulations standing in the way of economic recovery, paving the way for a swift comeback from the artificially-induced economic crash.
Trump’s instinct to deregulate instead of seizing more power in the face of the crisis appears to have paid off, as the unemployment rate dropped 1.4 percentage points to 13.3 percent from April’s 14.7 percent, which, according to the Daily Caller, was the largest over-the-month increase and highest unemployment rate since at least 1948.
Economic experts had previously predicted that unemployment would reach almost 20 percent even as the US emerged from nearly three months of mandatory lockdowns.
Back in business
Widespread protests against police brutality across the nation appear to have put an end to social distancing and stay-at-home orders, as dozens of Democrat politicians and even public health officials eschew directives to “stay home” in support of massive protest gatherings in nearly every major city.
Notably, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who rose to prominence for enforcing an extreme and extended lockdown on her constituents in the name of public health, opted to march shoulder-to-shoulder with protesters in downtown Detroit on Thursday in solidarity with demonstrations calling for justice for George Floyd.
The sudden u-turn on social distancing and staying home will likely give the White House ammunition to push for further easing of restrictions as the US enters the summer.
“This looks like the shortest recession in history,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist for MUFG, though other experts have warned that the US has a long want to go. “The fact of the matter is that when you have a deep economic crisis, regardless of the cause, it takes time to recover back to pre-crisis levels,” said Daniel Zhao, a senior economist and data scientist at Glassdoor. “The economy can’t turn on a dime.”
Nevertheless, the apocalyptic numbers forecast by economic experts and even some White House officials appear to not be likely to come to pass — so long as a catastrophic second wave of the virus doesn’t occur.