Ugly jobs data shows COVID toll as Trump walks back task force claim

Grim new U.S. employment data on Wednesday underscored the coronavirus’ staggering economic toll, and highlighted the tough path states and businesses face as lockdowns are eased with infections still on the rise.

Earlier in the day, ADP reported that private payrolls plunged by a record 20.2 million in April, another piece of evidence that the world’s largest economy is in dire shape amid tough restrictions on public movement and activity. The numbers add to the shock of a record-breaking 6-week streak of weekly unemployment claims, now totaling more than 30 million, in the past six weeks.

“Job losses of this scale are unprecedented. The total number of job losses for the month of April alone was more than double the total jobs lost during the Great Recession,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, co-head of the ADP Research Institute.

The COVID-19 crisis has risen to nearly 3.7 million confirmed cases, and is nearing 260,000 deaths as of midday Wednesday. In the U.S., cases have topped 1.2 million and the death toll is closing in on 72,000.

The ADP data foreshadowed Friday’s nonfarm payrolls report, which is likely to be as ugly. Some states are gradually easing stay-at-home orders — and pharmaceutical companies are hard at work manufacturing potential treatments and cures — that in theory can help put people back to work.

However, the reopening strategy is fraught with big risks. With certain regions relaxing shelter-in-place orders, a growing number of health experts are concerned about a potential resurgence in new infections.

Based on the criteria from the White House task force last month, “very few states” meet the criteria, Anand Parekh, Chief Medical Advisor at the Bipartisan Policy Center, told Yahoo Finance on Wednesday.

Parekh added that states should be considering what percentage of tests are coming back positive — if there is enough testing and if health systems are prepared in the event of a sudden surge.

The number of infected has topped 1.2 million, and over 71,000 are dead.

Trump says task force will stay put

In a Twitter post on Wednesday, President Donald Trump walked back the idea of disbanding the White House’s coronavirus task force, easing concerns about the country’s ongoing efforts to battle the coronavirus. The president said the group would remain intact indefinitely, but may “add or subtract” some members.

The tweet came less than 24 hours after Vice President Mike Pence sparked jitters by saying the group was winding down its efforts. Given that the pandemic is claiming a heavy toll in human and economic terms, the hint raised alarms among government and health officials alike.

U.S. House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer called it “unthinkable” and “a shameful abdication of responsibility” in a post on Twitter.

Anjalee Khemlani is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @AnjKhem

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