The Trump administration’s Labor Department sent an email to state officials this week asking them to report new unemployment claims only in “generalities” to avoid spooking financial markets, The New York Times reported.
The email on Wednesday asked state labor authorities to only “provide information using generalities to describe claims levels (very high, large increase)” until the Labor Department releases the total number of national claims next Thursday.
“States should not provide numeric values to the public,” Gay Gilbert, the administrator of the department’s Office of Employment Insurance, wrote in the email shared with the Times. The message noted that the figures are closely tracked by financial markets judging the strength of the economy.
Unemployment claims have been skyrocketing as thousands are laid off from jobs amid the spread of coronavirus. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin reportedly warned senators that unemployment during the pandemic could hit 20% without a financial rescue package.
Georgia did not release exact figures. State Labor Department spokeswoman Kersha Cartwright told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the state was not yet ready to reveal specific numbers — though she did not mention the memo.
New claims were so numerous that the state’s unemployment website was clogged, said Cartwright, adding: “We are seeing as many claims filed in a day as we usually see in a week.”