Job plan is working -- now let's do more

December 10, 2003|By Donald L. Evans

THIS HOLIDAY season, more Americans are shopping because more Americans are working. The improving unemployment rate is adding fuel to our growing economy, increasing consumption and spurring additional job creation.

On Friday, we learned that the unemployment rate continued to fall in November, dropping to 5.9 percent. These numbers bring a total of over 328,000 new jobs in the past four months -- the most robust period of job creation in nearly three years. We can take comfort knowing fewer Americans will spend the holidays searching for a job.

Job creation is only one piece of the foundation we have laid for economic growth. In addition to rising employment, our economy and productivity are growing at the fastest rates in nearly 20 years. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth hit 8.2 percent in the third quarter of this year, the best growth since 1984.

American families are more financially secure. Consumer confidence is rising, while inflation and interest rates remain low. U.S. stock markets have added over $2 trillion to Americans' wealth this year. We have the strongest economy in the world.

The turnaround in our economic outlook can be credited to the American work force and President Bush's jobs and growth agenda. After the shocks of recession, terrorism, corporate scandal and war, we have now laid the foundation for economic growth and job creation.

The tax relief enacted earlier this year provided the fiscal stimulus needed to grow our economy and create new jobs. By putting more money in taxpayers' pockets, we increase the demand for goods and services. And when demand for goods or services goes up, someone is going to fill that demand, and someone is more likely to find a job.

While the recent job creation is good news for every American, we cannot be satisfied until every American seeking work can find a job. Every American should spend the holidays hunting for gifts -- not jobs.

President Bush is proposing a six-point plan to create the conditions for further job creation. It utilizes our nation's strengths and addresses lingering economic weaknesses.

Our greatest strength is our work force: American workers are the most productive in the world. As the president said last week, "If you're good at something, we ought to try to find more markets." We must continue to expand free trade, open new markets and ensure a level playing field for American workers.

We must also address businesses' indirect costs that slow job creation. Junk lawsuits, rising health care costs and high energy prices are harming our economy. Medicare reform will help make health care more affordable and available, but we must do more to reduce health care costs. To make American businesses and workers more competitive, Congress should consider the administration's tort reform, medical liability reform and energy proposals.

Congress should also make permanent the recently enacted tax relief to ensure the foundation for growth is not weakened. Permanent tax relief would make it easier for families and businesses to plan for the future.

Finally, this administration will continue to cut needless and burdensome regulations that force entrepreneurs to worry about government instead of customers.

Job creation is making this holiday season especially merry. Now is not the time for complacency. To keep our economy growing, Congress should continue to act on the president's economic agenda.

Donald L. Evans is secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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