White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Monday rejected fellow economic adviser Kevin Hassett’s dire outlook on the economy during the coronavirus pandemic, calling it “all gloom and doom.”
Key administration figures in recent days have offered various assessments of the state of the economy as millions of American workers continue to apply for unemployment benefits and stay-at-home orders remain in place across the country in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
“What we need now is optimism as we begin to try to get America back to work,” Navarro told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day.”
“What I see from the micro level, I see essential industries still working. Our aerospace industry has been to work the whole time creating the defense weapons we need in order to protect ourselves,” he said. “We’ve seen Walmart booming at this point, seen Amazon booming. We see the economy working in certain sectors, but we also see a lot of pain and suffering, which is why we need to move forward on this together.”
In a striking prediction from a key White House economic adviser, Hassett said over the weekend he expects the US will see an unemployment rate similar to that of the Great Depression because of the financial impact of the virus.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Hassett called the pandemic “the biggest negative shock that our economy, I think, has ever seen.”
“We’re going to be looking at an unemployment rate that approaches rates that we saw during the Great Depression,” Hassett said. “During the Great Recession – remember that was a financial crisis around 2008 – that we lost 8.7 million jobs and the whole thing. Right now, we’re losing that many jobs about every 10 days.”
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin offered a more positive view on Sunday, telling reporters he believes the economy will begin to bounce back in mid-to-late summer because of the economic activity that he hopes will occur in May and June, as some states begin to reopen.
“This is an unprecedented situation. This is not a financial crisis, this is – we shut down,” Mnuchin told reporters at the White House. “The traditional economic models may work. They may not work.”
Asked on Monday to explain the contrast in messaging between his and Mnuchin’s comments about economic recovery, Hassett said he and the Treasury secretary “talk all the time,” adding, “I don’t think there’s really much wiggle room between us.”
“He’s optimistic that we’ll have a V-shaped recovery because he’s been engaged in discussions with our economic team and the President putting out or putting together the next phase of legislation that we think will be necessary to make sure that we flourish again sometime soon,” he told reporters at the White House. “And I think he’s highly confident that that legislation will pass since he’s been in the middle of it and he’s excellent at this.”
He also said the economic team is expected to present President Donald Trump with options for another stimulus package in the coming days and something will be presented to lawmakers on Capitol Hill “this week or next.”
First-time claims for unemployment benefits totaled 4.4 million in the week ending April 18, after factoring in seasonal adjustments, according to the US Department of Labor.
The Commerce Department on Wednesday will release the nation’s first quarter GDP which will show the initial economic downturn due to the coronavirus. Those figures will show the start of the economic slide, but the major impact will be seen in the numbers reflecting the second quarter GDP, which will be released in July.
CNN’s Richard Davis, Kevin Bohn and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.