“The pandemic’s been brutal. And no sector worse hurt than energy. No question. At one point, no one would take delivery and we had negative prices, crazy stuff,” Kudlow said in apparent reference to the oil industry at an Energy Department symposium on natural gas.
His remarks don’t take into account many industries that make up the bulk of the nation’s high 2020 unemployment claims.
In April, oil prices dropped into their lowest point ever, at one point trading at negative $37.63, the lowest level recorded since the New York Mercantile Exchange began trading oil futures in 1983. The price drop reflected the willingness of futures traders to pay someone to take physical possession of the oil.
Prices have since recovered to around $40, a break-even point for many oil companies, but still below the $50 range before the pandemic.
Though a historic moment that reflected the uncertainty of the markets, several different analyses of the economy suggest that oil and energy broadly are hardly the only industries reeling.
A March analysis from S&P Global Market Intelligence found airlines were the most likely to default, with the oil and gas industry taking the No. 2 spot after trailing the gaming and leisure industries for most of the month.
The energy industry accounts for a much smaller share of unemployment claims. A six-month outlook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found leisure and hospitality accounted for the largest share of unemployment claims filed over the last six months, at 24 percent, followed by education and health services and professional and business services. Each of those areas has accounted for more unemployment claims over the last six months than every part of the energy sector combined.
The event largely served as a way for administration officials and industry representatives to bash environmental groups and Democrats for not doing more to promote natural gas. The discussion largely mirrored rhetoric used by the Trump campaign, broadly casting Democratic environmental policies as dangerous for the economy.
“I don’t want to politicize this,” Kudlow said. “I just want to say that the other team, if you will, has some bizarre plans that would do great harm, to energy to the economy to jobs and so forth.”