Economy

Top White House economist set to depart amid coronavirus recession

The head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers is departing the administration at the end of June, according to a White House official — leaving the president with one fewer senior economist in the middle of a recession.

Tomas Philipson, the acting chairman of the CEA, took over in July 2019 after serving as a member of Trump’s three-person council for almost two years. His background is in health care economics, and he previously served as the professor of public policy at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy to which he will return in the fall, the White House official said.

The former chair, Kevin Hassett, recently returned to the White House for an unpaid assignment to advise the president during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus. But, he too announced he would soon leave the administration after concluding his temporary gig.

The void left by Hassett, a regular TV presence who is well-liked by the president and top White House aides, along with Philipson will leave the president with fewer economic voices within the upper echelons of the White House, aside from National Economic Director Larry Kudlow and his top trade guru, Peter Navarro. Top administration officials are just starting to discuss another economic aid package as major provisions of the last one expire in June and July.

Trump has staked so much of his reelection message on the state of the economy, which was upended by the global pandemic and the ensuing lockdown in cities across the country. Now the White House faces a national unemployment rate of 13.3 percent, which far exceeds the unemployment numbers the U.S. saw during the Great Recession.

Philipson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The last time Philipson appeared publicly at the White House was in early June, when he stood behind the president during a Rose Garden speech when Trump boasted about the latest job numbers.

It is not clear who will run the council after his departure.