In further signs of economic difficulties President-elect Barack Obama will
deal with as he takes over the White House in January, the U.S. jobless rate
climbed to a 14-year high, another indication the economy is in recession. Major
U.S. automakers also delivered more bad news. VOA's Dan Robinson reports, the
economic situation was the primary focus of Mr. Obama's first news conference in
Chicago Friday, after he met with a team of economic experts.
At the end of Friday trading in New York,
the key Dow Jones Industrial average had a small rally, closing up just over 248
points, after swings in positive territory throughout the day.
week results followed two straight declines of 929 points, the worst consecutive
day point losses since 1987, and the worst post-Election Day declines in the
history of the Dow.
Friday brought more pessimistic news about the
economy. In the month of October 240,000 jobs were lost in the month of October,
pushing unemployment to 6.5 percent.
That is the highest since 1994,
nearly a half percentage point increase from September, all but erasing
remaining doubts that the economy is in recession.
In October 10.1
million people were unemployed, a 2.8 million increase over the past year. At
the same time, in 2007, the unemployment rate stood at 4.8 percent.
Other dismal news included a decline in retail sales, and disturbing
reports from the U.S. auto industry. Ford Motor Company announced a $129 million
third quarter loss, and cuts of more than 2,200 U.S. jobs. General Motors
reported third-quarter operating losses of $4.2 billion.
Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph Biden met in Chicago Friday with a team of
economic experts and advisors. In a news conference, Mr. Obama called for an
economic rescue plan for Americans, saying he intends to act strongly once he
"We need a rescue plan for the middle class that invests in
immediate efforts to create jobs and provides relief to families that are
watching their pay checks shrink and their life savings disappear," he
He said a priority should be extending unemployment benefits for
those unable to find work, and efforts to address the spreading impact on small
businesses and state and local governments facing budget difficulties.
On Friday, President Bush again pointed to what he called aggressive and
decisive measures his administration has taken to stabilize markets, adding it
will take some time for various measures to have an impact on the economy.
Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto said the president understands the
burdens Americans face, but avoided putting a recession label on the economic
"He understands that Americans are deeply concerned about the
challenges our economy is facing, but we have overcome these challenges in the
past and he is confident that with the actions that we're taking we will be able
to do so again," he said.
While President-elect Obama said there is only
one presidential administration in charge at the moment, he called a new fiscal
stimulus plan long overdue, adding he wants to see Congress pass a package
sooner rather than later.
But whether a so-called 'lame duck' session of
Congress to approve legislation will occur at all is in doubt. House Majority
Leader Steny Hoyer said that, aside from an effort to help the auto industry,
trying to push it through without cooperation from Senate Republicans and the
White House would not be useful.
Fratto said the White House is open to
ideas about what form a stimulus effort would take, but added that until
Congress clarifies its intentions, the administration will focus on steps it is
Mr. Obama said, among his priorities is a review of the
Bush administration's implementation of its financial program to ensure that it
is achieving the goal of stabilizing financial markets, while protecting
taxpayers and helping homeowners.
Republicans fired more preemptive shots
at Democratic stimulus proposals, and indirectly at President-elect Obama's
stated intentions for the economy.
House Minority Leader John Boehner
criticized Democrats' plans to spend as much as $100 billion more, saying
Congress should be cutting business and individual taxes, rather than increasing
spending on government programs.