President Bush acknowledged on Friday that the nation's economy has slowed after the Labor Department reported the worst monthly job losses in five years.
Bush's remarks came on the same day the Labor Department reported employers had slashed 63,000 jobs in February. Also Friday, the Federal Reserve announced emergency measures to pour more money into credit markets in hopes of shoring up the faltering economy.
"It's clear our economy has slowed," the president said at the White House. "But the good news is, we anticipated this and took decisive action to bolster the economy, by passing a growth package that will put money into the hands of American workers and businesses."
The Federal Reserve said on Friday it would greatly increase the size of auctions under the Term Auction Facility, which it created in December. That means financial institutions will be able to pledge a broad array of collateral, including mortgage-backed securities, to borrow from the Fed.
The surprise move follows the Fed's aggressive moves to ease the effects of a mortgage and credit crisis on the wider American economy. But despite that strategy, and the Fed's previous interest rate cuts, it has become increasingly difficult and costly to borrow money, placing a drag on growth.
The Labor Department said that job losses were widespread, with hefty cuts coming from construction, manufacturing, retailing and a variety of professional and business services. Those losses swamped gains elsewhere including education and health care, leisure and hospitality, and the government.
As NPR's Jim Zarolli tells Steve Inskeep, overall, the national unemployment rate eased slightly to 4.8 percent from 4.9 percent in January — but that was because the number of people in the workforce fell by 450,000 last month.
The White House said it was disappointed by the figures.
"This quarter's going to be a difficult quarter for the U.S. economy. We are in a low-growth period in the economy," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.
The latest snapshot of the nation's employment climate underscored the heavy toll of the housing and credit crises on companies, jobseekers and the overall economy.
"These are very weak figures and reinforce fears that the economy is in, or is falling into, a recession," economist Ken Mayland told NPR.
Mayland, president of Clearview Economics, said losses were heaviest in construction, manufacturing and retail, all consumer-driven industries, suggesting a recession may continue well into 2008.
From NPR reports and the Associated Press.