Trump Says Jobs Will Return 'Very Quickly' After Record Number of Americans File for Unemployment

After a record-breaking 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance benefits in the span of one week amidst the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump said the economy would rebound "very quickly" once the COVID-19 threat ends.

The historic number of unemployment claims was higher than the record of 695,000 set at the beginning of October 1982.

"We have to go back to work," Trump said during Thursday's coronavirus task force briefing. "Our country has to go back. Our country is based on that. And I think it's going to happen pretty quickly. A lot of progress is made, but we've got to get back to work."

While the unemployment numbers were high, Trump said the statistics were "fully expected."

"I heard it could be 6 million, could be 7 million, but it's 3.3 [million], 3.2 [million]," Trump said. "It's a lot of jobs but we'll come back very strong, you know, the sooner we get back to work."

"I know those numbers but I think you'll see a very fast turnaround once we have a victory over the hidden enemy, as I say, it's a hidden enemy," Trump added. "We'll see what happens, but they're fully expected numbers, at least."

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President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in the press briefing room of the White House on Thursday. Drew Angerer/Getty

"This large increase in unemployment claims was not unexpected, and results from the recognition by Americans across the country that we have had to temporarily halt certain activities in order to defeat the coronavirus," Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said in a Thursday statement sent to Newsweek. "The hard impact of this on American workers was anticipated in the bill passed by the Senate last night, which provides hundreds of billions of dollars in unprecedented funding for traditional unemployment insurance and pandemic unemployment assistance, and one-time cash payments of $1,200 or more to Americans making $75,000 or less ($150,000 for those who are married). Perhaps more important, the Senate bill also provides incentives and funding for businesses to keep their workers on payroll, so that, as soon as possible, we can spring back to the strong economic conditions we enjoyed just weeks ago."

U.S. Federal Reserve chair Jerome J. Powell said on NBC's Today Thursday that containing the spread of coronavirus was essential to reopening the country.

"The first order of business will be to get the spread of the virus under control, and then to resume economic activity," Powell said, adding that the virus would "dictate the timetable."

Trump has said that he would like to reopen at least portions of the U.S. for business by Easter Sunday.

"So we're going to be talking, and it could be we'll do sections of our country," Trump said at a Wednesday news briefing. "There are big sections of our country that are very little affected by what's taken place, then there are other sections that are very heavily affected."

CNN International anchor Richard Quest said Thursday night during the network's coronavirus town hall that the unemployment numbers "could get a great deal worse as [coronavirus] rolls across the country."

"Although this is horrific, you have to remember why it's happened," Quest said, "and that is because the economy has been artificially paused. So a lot of these jobs will come back when the economy gets going again. The issue, of course, is that the economy needs to stay paused while the virus dissipates and is gotten rid of."

"The social distancing must be maintained," Quest continued, "and even though the economic numbers may look dreadful, bordering on disastrous, they will repair and recover quicker as a result of what's being done."

Many areas of the U.S. have been placed under stay-at-home orders, closing businesses deemed non-essential. Dine-in restaurants have been shut down under those state orders as have many bars, nightclubs, hair salons and gyms.

Updated 4:01 p.m. EST 3/27/2020: This story has been updated to include a statement from Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia.