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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

John Snow
John Snow
Secretary of the Treasury

January 6, 2006

John Snow
Hello, everyone, and thanks for joining our discussion on "Ask the White House." We found out today that the year 2005 was a very good one indeed for the 2 million Americans who found new jobs. Today's employment report is the latest indication that the American economy is firing on all cylinders, with over 400,000 jobs created in the last two months.

It's always a pleasure to be here, in cyberspace, with you. Let's get started.

Daniel, from Lakeville, CT writes:
Why did the economy create only a 108,000 jobs and not 200,000 jobs that was forecast?

John Snow
Hello, Daniel. Thanks for this good question. In short, all forecasts are subject to error. Sometimes they miss the mark on the high side, sometimes the low side. For example, no one predicted that the economy would create over 300,000 jobs in November. I'm not worried about the accuracy of forecasts as long as new jobs continue to be created, which they are, at a very strong pace. Before the hurricanes that hit us so hard this fall, the U.S. economy was generating about 200,000 jobs per month. After two months affected by the weather - September and October - it appears we have regained that pace, creating over 400,000 jobs in the past two months. I also note that we have enjoyed 31 straight months of job growth and, during that time, have added more than 4.6 million jobs.

Cameron, from Northern Viirginia writes:
When was the last time our country had 4.9 unemployment?

John Snow
Hi, Cameron; thanks for writing in today. The last time was more recent than you think. We actually had a 4.9 percent rate in both August and October, but this wasn't revealed until the employment data was revised and finalized (and released today), so you wouldn't have read it in the news when it actually occurred. Before that, August of 2001 was the last time that unemployment was at 4.9 percent. I appreciate your interest in the low rate, and am pleased to report that the unemployment rate has been lower than the average rates of 1970s 1980s 1990s for the past two years.

Gregory, from Los Angeles writes:
can the american people expect the same of better economic growth for the remainder of the fiscal 2006 year?

John Snow
Gregory, I can tell you that as we begin 2006, we have every reason to be optimistic that this economy - the most flexible, resilient and robust in the world - will continue to grow and create good jobs. The private sector, particularly America's entrepreneurs and small businesses, will continue to be the engine of the economy as long as government continues to give them the freedom they need to do so. Making the President's tax cuts permanent is the most important thing we can do in the coming months to make sure the economic environment in 2006 is as healthy, and as good for job-seekers, as it was in 2005.

Charlie, from Vancouver, BC writes:
What is the trend in the deficit and debt of the country since the president preceding Reagan until now?

John Snow
Thanks for this intriguing question, Charlie! Here's some data that I think will interest you: The deficit in fiscal year 1980 was 2.7 percent of GDP. In fiscal year 2005 it was lower, at 2.6 percent of GDP. Also, interest on the debt - which is the true cost to the taxpayer of carrying the debt - was 1.9 percent of GDP in 1980, compared with this past fiscal year where it was significantly lower at 1.5 percent. As you know, deficits matter, and one of the Bush Administration's highest priorities is to achieve the President's goal of reducing our deficit in half to below 2.3 percent of GDP by 2009.

Roy, from Fairfield ,California writes:
Should President Bush Tax Cuts go on to help our strong economy

John Snow
Roy, I'm glad to get this question because it can be the shortest answer today: yes, absolutely.

Keeping tax rates low by making the President's tax cuts permanent is the single most important thing that Congress can do in the coming months to keep this terrific economy going strong. Lower tax rates have lightened the burden on individuals and businesses, which encourages economic growth and job creation. The tax cuts must be made permanent.

Mike, from Rocky River, OH writes:
Secretaery Snow, What steps is the administation taking to continue our nation's economic growth?

Thank you.

John Snow
Hi, Mike. I appreciate your question because talking about, and planning for, the future of the American economy is as important as studying the shape it's in today - which is very good shape, indeed.

As I've mentioned, making the President's tax cuts permanent is the most important thing we can do in the coming months to make sure the economic environment in 2006 is as healthy, and as good for job-seekers, as it was in 2005. To maintain the economy's momentum, the President has also called upon Congress to restrain spending, therefore remaining on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. The President is also advancing pro-growth policies to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil; help workers find affordable healthcare; strengthen rules governing pensions; reform our legal system; and give more Americans control over their lives by expanding ownership. To ensure that Americans have the skills needed to fill the jobs of the 21st century, the Nation's education system and job training programs must prepare workers for new opportunities. America must also maintain its economic leadership in the world and open foreign markets to American goods and services.

Keeping our economy on a path of growth is a never-ending task, and it is one that the President and his team are extremely dedicated to. Thanks again for this question, Mike.

Troy, from Memphis, TN writes:
There have been new bills made for the $50, $20, and now $10 bills to make them harder to counterfiet. Are there any plans to revamp the $5 and $1 bills? Also, why aren't $2 bills circulated more?

John Snow
Hello, Troy. You make an important point and ask excellent questions. I strongly encourage you to feed your interest in U.S. currency at In the mean time, I can tell you that $5 and $1 bills aren't counterfeited as often as higher denominations, and that's why you see the Bureau of Engraving and Printing focusing their technology and efforts on the $10s, $20s and $50s. The $100 note is also slated to be redesigned, but a timetable for its introduction is not yet set. The government has no plans to redesign the $5 note at this time, and the $1 and $2 notes will not be redesigned. To your final question: while two dollar bills are still in circulation, they are not in very high demand.

Jeff, from El Paso, Texas writes:
Mr. Secretary. Can you advise on what the recent trends and rates of the labor force participation rate? It seems that all levels of government frequently talk about the unemployment rate but I was always taught in University that this cant be looked singularily as it does not take into account persons who may be eligible to work but have left the workforce.

Kind Regards

Jeff Burrow

John Snow
Hi, Jeff; thanks for joining our discussion today. I think you're concerned about so-called "discouraged" workers, and how they fit into discussions about employment. First, we have to look at the big picture: In the past two years, the unemployment rate has fallen nearly one percentage point overall. It has fallen even more, by 1.3 percent, when so-called "discouraged" workers are included, and that's good news.

Randy, from Georgia writes:
How has the slowdown in investment of petrodollars back into the US economy affected Americans now that OPEC nations are accepting and investing the Euro.

John Snow
Thanks for your question, Randy. A close look at the international capital flow data shows that foreign purchases of U.S. securities continue to be quite strong, in fact setting some records recently. For instance, net private purchases were nearly $1 trillion through the first 10 months of 2005.

tristan, from CARSONVILLE MI writes:
hi secreyary snow can you tell me how michigan rates with the other states economicaly

John Snow
Hi, Tristan, I'd be happy to. I know that the workers of Michigan need more job creation and more good news, with your unemployment rate (at 6.5 percent) higher than the national rate of 4.9 percent. In terms of modern Michigan history, however, 6.5 percent is one of the lowest unemployment rates the state has seen.

Here's the good news: 5,800 new jobs were created in Michigan in November. It's also good to see that, from the second to third quarters of 2005, personal income in Michigan rose 0.5 percent.

Emily, from Port Clinton writes:
Does every state have the same coins?Does every state havethe same dollers? When will the next coins come out?

John Snow
Hi, Emily, thanks for writing in. I know a lot of people are interested in U.S. coins and currency, and I encourage folks to look at the web sites for both the U.S. Mint and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for lots of interesting information and also some fun trivia. All of our coins and currency are national, but I'm sure you noticed that each individual state is being commemorated by a special series of quarters. In November, the Mint released the designs selected for the five new 2006 commemorative quarter-dollar coins which will be issued in approximate ten-week intervals starting early this year. The new quarters will honor Nevada, Nebraska, Colorado, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Cliff, from Brimfield Ohio writes:
Secretary Snow: Many like to blame the trade deficient for the loss of jobs But is it not true that the trade issue also creates jobs? And hasn't new technology caused both an increase and a decrease in some job markets more so than jobs lost out of country? Thank You

John Snow
Hi, Cliff, and thanks for asking about this very important subject. You're absolutely right that engaging in international trade is good for job creation. Trade has so many benefits, including encouraging growth in the overseas market for U.S. goods and services, enhancing opportunities for higher-paying American jobs, expanding choices for American consumers, and promoting U.S. security interests. In fact, trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada and the Uruguay Round global trade agreement have generated benefits -- lower prices and more choices -- totaling $1,300-$2,000 annually for the typical U.S. family.

John Snow
Thanks so much, everyone, for your terrific questions today. It's always a pleasure to participate in "Ask the White House" and I look forward to our next chat.