May 5, 2020 / 2:47 PM / 2 months ago

White House adviser expects U.S. unemployment rate for April to be 'north of 16%'

FILE PHOTO: Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Kevin Hassett speaks to reporters at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett on Tuesday said he expects the U.S. unemployment rate was above 16% in April, as the coronavirus pandemic began to devastate the country’s economy.

“My guess right now is it’s going to be north of 16%, maybe as high as 20%,” Hassett said in an interview with CNN about the unemployment rate the federal government will report on Friday. “So we are looking at probably the worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression. It’s a tremendous negative shock, a very, very terrible shock.”

Economists polled by Reuters forecast the official government report to show last month’s unemployment rate was 16% and that more than 20 million jobs were lost. But economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago are estimating that the true rate could be between 25.1% and 34.6%.

Hassett said he had initially expected the rate would hit 20% in June but after 30 million people filed for jobless benefits last month he began to anticipate a higher rate in April.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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