Trump: jobless spike troubling, but could have more than doubled without China travel ban

"Some people were projecting that it would be six or seven [million]," Trump said during Thursday's White House coronavirus task force briefing. 

President Donald Trump
Evan Vucci/Associated Press President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Friday, March 20, 2020, in Washington.
Last Updated:
March 26, 2020 - 8:04pm

As the Labor Department reported Thursday that a record 3.28 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, President Trump said that figure could have been more than double if his administration hadn't acted quickly to shut down foreign travel from China in the early onset of the coronavirus.

Trump touted his administration's early decision to ban travelers from China after reports that the novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China. He said that without the travel ban, millions of more Americans could have been forced into unemployment due to a more widespread coronavirus infection.

"Some people were projecting that it would be six or seven [million]," Trump said during Thursday's White House coronavirus task force briefing. "I think you'll see a very fast turnaround once we have a victory over the hidden enemy."

Trump said that the millions of newly-unemployed Americans were not to blame for their status.

"It's nobody's fault, certainly not in this country," Trump said.

Loaded with medical supplies and staff for easing New York hospital crowding, the Navy's USNS Comfort ship located in Norfolk, Va., will depart to New York City on Saturday and arrive Monday, rather than three or four weeks from now, Trump also said.

"They did the maintenance quickly," Trump said.

Trump also said earlier on Thursday that his administration is working on new guidelines to help U.S. governors make decisions about ongoing social distancing that will be based upon a county’s infection risk level. The announcement was made in a letter from the president to governors on the same day that Trump had a noon teleconference with them about social distancing and other efforts to stop the virus spread. 

The Dow on Thursday gained more than 1,300 points, its third straight day of gains following weeks of record losses because of the coronavirus. The turnaround comes as Congress works overtime to pass a $2.2 trillion spending package to help suddenly unemployed Americans and shuttered businesses. 

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) began attacking Democrats in a sponsored fundraising email as Congress works to pass a massive stimulus package to help American workers and businesses struggling because of coronavirus. The email, paid for by the NRCC and signed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, blasts Democrats for pushing partisan policies instead of working to help Americans amid the health crisis.

Trump on Wednesday touted the unprecedented size of the pending $2.2 trillion federal coronavirus stimulus bill but said if it's not sufficient to lift the economy from a recession, additional stimulus might be required.

"If we have to go back, we have to go back," Trump said during Wednesday's White House coronavirus task force briefing. 

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said during the Wednesday briefing that he expected the stimulus bill would support the economy for about three months.

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