Labor Secretary Says Coronavirus Economic Recovery Better Than Projected

(Bloomberg News/TNS) -
Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia testifies during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Capitol Hill last month. (Leah Millis/Pool via AP/File)

Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic has been better than expected so far, and it won’t be necessary to extend an emergency unemployment program that ends this month.

“We are doing well; we do need to be careful about the virus but I am just optimistic,” Scalia said in an interview on Fox News. “It’s really important to again remember how much better than projected we’ve done so far.”

“Spending, retail spending, consumer spending generally, new home starts, all of these have been actually very encouraging economic indicators over the last about six weeks or so,” Scalia said.

As lawmakers prepare to resume talks about another round of stimulus later this month, President Donald Trump’s calls for tax relief — including a potential payroll tax cut — could be “an important part” of bringing more people back to work, said Scalia, a member of the White House coronavirus task force.

But the $600 weekly unemployment benefit established as part of the first round of stimulus shouldn’t be part of the next package, Scalia said.

“As we re-open the economy, I don’t know that we need a benefit like that,” Scalia said. There will likely be a “lot of discussions toward the end of the month” between the White House and lawmakers about the next round of stimulus measures, he said.

Republicans have called the additional unemployment payment, put into place when workers were being urged to stay home to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus cases, a disincentive for some Americans to return to work.

Democrats have proposed legislation to extend the benefit and to phase it out only when unemployment falls below certain levels. At the same time, President Trump has called for a payroll tax cut, which would give employees a boost. Talks on Capitol Hill over the next stimulus bill are poised to resume when lawmakers return from the July 4 holiday later this month.