Trump: Feds working to help airline, oil, other industries as unemployment claims continue climb

By Dan McCaleb | The Center Square

On a day the U.S. Labor Department announced an additional 6.6 million Americans filed unemployment claims, President Donald Trump opened the White House Coronavirus Task Force’s daily press briefing Thursday focusing on economic issues.

Specifically, he said White House officials are working on solutions for the airline and oil and gas industries.

The president said he met with Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao about the crippled airline industry.

“The airline business has been hit very hard, as everybody knows,” Trump said.

Estimates show that the number of people traveling by plane dropped by as much as 96 percent since stay-at-home and travel restrictions were put in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus that originated in China late last year.

Trump said an airline recovery package will be designed to help pay industry employees and save airline companies. He said he expects progress to be made on the package over the weekend and called for bipartisan support.

Trump said he also talked Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia King Salman about their oil production war that has contributed to oil prices plummeting to less than $30 a barrel.

“There will be layoffs all over the world, and we don’t want that,” Trump said.

Russia and Saudi Arabia have engaged in a monthslong production war despite growing worldwide supplies, and oil-producing states such as Texas are seeing significant impacts.

Trump said OPEC met Thursday and he’s hoping for a deal soon.

“There’s so much production no one even knows what to do with it,” Trump said of stockpiles of oil, adding that storage locations are being depleted. He said the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve is almost full.

Trump also acknowledged the Federal Reserve’s announcement Thursday of an additional $2.3 trillion in loans that will be made available to small businesses and state and local governments.

“The Fed’s role is to provide as much relief and stability as we can during this period of constrained economic activity, and our actions today will help ensure that the eventual recovery is as vigorous as possible,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said in a statement earlier Thursday.

Also earlier Thursday, the U.S. Department of Labor announced another 6.6 million Americans filed unemployment claims in the week ending April 4. The department also adjusted upward the number of claims filed the week ending March 28 to 6.87 million.

Stay-at-home orders in most U.S. states have led to nonessential businesses closing to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, driving the skyrocketing unemployment claims.

Trump said health officials are still continuing to see positive signs that the tide is turning on the novel coronavirus and that he wants to reopen the economy sooner rather than later.

“I think the economy is going to do very well” after it reopens, he said.