March 19, 2020 / 12:17 AM / 11 days ago

Fed's Kashkari says U.S. Congress needs speedy action as layoffs rise

FILE PHOTO: President of the Federal Reserve Bank on Minneapolis Neel Kashkari listens to a question during an interview in New York, U.S., March 29, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

(Reuters) - Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari on Wednesday said U.S. Congress must act fast to help Americans already losing their jobs amid the fast-spreading coronavirus epidemic.

“Speed is of the essence here,” he told CNN, adding that Minneapolis alone, a state with a much smaller population than California or New York where infections are exploding, has this week lost tens of thousands of jobs. “Whatever Congress is going to do, the faster they can do it, and the more aggressively they can do it, the more people we can help.”

As U.S. authorities restrict movement and public outings to try to safeguard public health, millions of American jobs are at risk, Kashkari said. “How the virus progresses is really going to determine what the ultimate economic impact is,” Kashkari said. “It unfortunately could be devastating, like the financial crisis, or potentially even worse.”

A JP Morgan economist on Wednesday, in one of the most dire calls yet on the potential hit from the coronavirus epidemic, forecast the U.S. economy could shrink 14% next quarter, a steeper drop than in any quarter of the Great Recession.

Reporting Ann Saphir; Editing by Sandra Maler; Editing by Sandra Maler

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