Despite 701,000 job cuts in March, followed by another study that the US unemployment rate could jump to 32 percent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a senior Federal Reserve official said the American job market was not in "free fall".

Asking people to avail unemployment insurance

"I would push back against the idea of the economy or the job market being in free fall," Xinhua news agency quoted James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, as saying on Sunday in a CBS program.

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"We're asking people to stay home to invest in national health, and we're asking them to use the unemployment insurance program in order to get the transfers they need to be able to pay bills while they're at home, while they're not able to work because health authorities are trying to get the virus under control," he said.

Loss of jobs predicted

Bullard's comments came after a study from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis estimated in March that the pandemic could cost 47 million American jobs in the second quarter, bringing the unemployment rate to 32 percent. "Our estimates suggest the unemployment rate could go anywhere between 10 percent and 42 percent," Bullard said, adding the projected 32 percent figure was "a compromise in the middle".

The Labor Department reported on Friday that US employers cut 701,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate soared to 4.4 percent. The number of COVID-19 cases in the US reached 337,620 as of Monday, the highest in the world, with 9,643 deaths, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.