The Trump administration is reportedly not releasing formal economic projections this summer, which would gauge the severity of a historic downturn for the American economy. It would also likely illustrate reductions in growth and high unemployment ahead of the November election.
The Washington Post first reported the decision, citing two White House officials granted anonymity to discuss internal decision-making. Those officials said the coronavirus made it harder to predict economic trends and model accurate forecasts due to extreme volatility of the crisis.
The “mid-session review” report would have been published either July or August, several months before the presidential election in November, and include data on economic growth, unemployment, and inflation.
A senior administration official told Business Insider in a statement there is “no statutory requirement” mandating the report’s release and they are in “complete accordance with the law,” adding the data is “extremely fluid and would produce a less instructive forecast.”
“It is foolish to demand such a forecast simply because that is business as usual, particularly when that forecast may mislead the public,” the official said.
Federal budget experts said the White House hadn’t opted against publishing the forecast since at least the 1970s.
“It gets them off the hook for having to say what the economic outlook looks like,” Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office during the Bush administration, told The Post.
Yet both liberal and conservative experts said the White House should publish the document and maintain precedent with previous administrations. The Obama administration kept releasing the data throughout the Great Recession, even though it contained unfavorable projections such as a slow reduction of unemployment.
Other government agencies updated their projections as the pandemic slammed the economy. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office revised their forecasts in both April and May, which showed unemployment at around 9% for much of next year. It currently stands at 14.7%.
“There is no logistical reason they couldn’t do it,” Bill Hoagland, a former Republican staff director for the Senate Budget Committee, told The Post about the White House’s decision. “It seems more likely they do not want to bring attention to the high level of unemployment they’d have to project for this year, and into next year.”
The White House says it’s been forthcoming about the hit from the pandemic. Kevin Hassett, a senior White House economic adviser, told CNN on Sunday the US would likely experience sharp unemployment rates this year.
But many critics say the Trump administration has been slow to acknowledge the extent of the economic disaster from the pandemic. It has downplayed the need for an additional stimulus package, and there are no serious discussions underway between the White House and Capitol Hill.
Over 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past three months, indicating that nearly one-in-four people are out of work.