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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.

Elaine Chao
Secretary of Labor
June 17, 2004

Elaine Chao
Hello. Looking forward to taking your questions. Let's begin.

Bree, from Florida writes:
Society used to be made up of "Upper", "Middle" and "Lower" Class citizens.

It seems the "Middle" has been wiped out. You're either "Rich" or you're "Poor". There isn't an "in-between" anymore. When can we expect to see more jobs out there? And when will Gas prices go down so us "little folks" don't have to struggle???

Elaine Chao
Thank you for your question. President Bush is committed to strengthening our economic recovery, and I.m pleased to be able to tell you that seeing strong job growth across the economy. We have experienced nine straight months of job gains, with 1.4 million new jobs created since last August. Nationally, the unemployment rate is at 5.6 percent, which is lower than the national average in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Significantly, personal income is rising meaning that Americans have more money in their pockets as well. President George W. Bush's economic policies are working, but we know we have more to do. The bottom line is that this administration will not be satisfied until every worker who is looking for a job can find one.

Regarding your second question, the Administration is concerned about the rising price of gas because it crimps family budgets, affects American truck drivers and increases costs for small business owners. The most important thing that can happen to address this problem is for Congress to pass the President's energy plan so that we have supplies that are affordable and reliable and can reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy.

Mark writes:
You must stop out sourcing American jobs. Do not give America jobs away.

That is not why Americans gave up their lives in ww2 to see their grand children work in fast food.

And don't tell me to re-train for something else because all manner of jobs are going accountants, manufactoring, sales. Please do your job and protect America not international companies.

Elaine Chao
This Administration is concerned when anyone loses a job for whatever reason. The answer is to make sure that America remains the best place in the world to do business and that we create a strong climate for job growth. The President.s economic strategy is achieving both of those goals and we have now seen nine straight months of job growth with 1.4 million new jobs.

Job growth in May was spread broadly across all sectors, but many employers still report that they have difficulty finding skilled workers. Training and education are critical for helping Americans fill those jobs, which is why the Administration is requesting $23 billion to make our training programs more effective, relevant and accessible.

What we must avoid is trying to build a wall around this country. Isolationist policies have been tried in the past and have failed. Moreover, these policies could threaten the jobs of 6.4 million Americans who work for overseas companies that have decided to set up shop here. Instead, we need to make sure that the United States remains the best place in the world to do business.

Carolyn, from Frendale writes:
Tell me where a man near 60 whose job is closing down where is he suppose to get another job? They took his pension two years ago so that is gone and he is not entitled to SSI for another 4 0r 5 years so tell me how are we suppose to live?

Thirty years of working in one place and its gone.

Elaine Chao
I'm sorry to learn of your family's difficult time. I want you to know that there is help available. There are 3,500 One-Stop career centers in the United States, where workers can seek opportunities for training, employment and other assistance. I would encourage your husband to contact one in California and let them help him. By going to , or by calling 1-877-US-2JOBS you can locate the One-Stop career center nearest you.

Rudy, from Florida writes:
I recently read that, in a poll, a majority of the American people believe that the economy LOST jobs in 2004.

I realize that the national media has something to do with this, but the Administration needs to find a way to counter this, and other untruths, on a DAILY BASIS or suffer the consequences.

Elaine Chao
Thanks for your question and for wanting your fellow Americans to know the facts. It.s important that American workers know that the economy is growing and that there are an increasing number of new jobs being created. We have experienced nine straight months of job growth, with 1.4 million new jobs created since last August. Nationally, the unemployment rate is at 5.6 percent, which is lower than the national average in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. The recovery is strong, and more and more people are realizing it.

Chris, from Outside Philadelphia writes:
I know grants are now available for training in the retail industry. My question though is it seems like the retail industry are exactly the low-paying jobs that won't allow a person to get ahead.

Why are you putting money in retail instead of spending money where people can make a good living?

Elaine Chao
There is a misperception that all jobs in retail are low-paying. In fact, there are lots of well-paying jobs in this field, and our grants for retail retraining focus on preparing workers to move up into these jobs and enhance their careers. As a part of the President.s High Growth Job Training Initiative, we are also helping workers find and prepare for jobs in other growing fields such as biotechnology, health care and advanced manufacturing.

Maria, from Oregon writes:
There are charges out there that the majority of the new jobs are low-paying. Please, I am sick of political spin. Just tell me where the new jobs have been created and if you anticipate more high-paying jobs and where those new jobs will be.

Elaine Chao
Thank you for wanting to know the facts. The truth is that many well-paying jobs are being created. Wages are rising, which is in stark contrast to some past recoveries, when real wages for workers declined. Jobs that pay above average wages are being created across a variety of industries including construction, health services and financial services.

Richard, from Essex, Massachusetts writes:
Dear Secretary Chao It is one thing to be unemployed and just out of school. It is another thing to be employed for 20 years and be laid off. I was just laid off and am told that future employment in my field is limited. What about retraining efforts?

That, to me, should be the focus. But I haven't the funds to become retrained. Now, I'm stuck.

Elaine Chao
Thanks for your question. This administration agrees with you that retraining is very important. That's why President Bush announced a Jobs for the 21st Century initiative in his State of the Union Address that would invest $250 million in helping workers get training at community colleges for jobs in rapidly- growing industries.

The Federal government has a number of other training and assistance programs that can also help you learn new skills and find new opportunities. You can learn about help that is available by going to , or by calling 1-877-US-2JOBS to locate the One-Stop career center nearest you.

Gary, from Pensacola writes:
What job market sectors do you think will be the hottest in the future? How do you help people get in those fields?

Elaine Chao
I'm so pleased that you asked that question. We have identified several industries where we expect strong growth in the near future. These industries include healthcare, information technology, biotechnology, and advanced manufacturing. President Bush has launched a High-Growth Job Training Initiative to help workers prepare for jobs in these fast-growing fields.

Steve, from tampa bay writes:
How do you intend to revive America's manufacturing sector?

Elaine Chao
Thanks for your question. I'm pleased to be able to tell you that, after a slump that began in mid-2000, manufacturing employment has been growing for four straight months with nearly 100,000 jobs added during that time. In fact, 32,000 new manufacturing jobs were created in America last month alone. President George W. Bush's economic policies are fostering job creation across all sectors, including manufacturing.

Mike, from Elkin, NC writes:
Hi Elaine. I have had no success in finding a fulltime job. I am currently working 2 parttime jobs with low wages and no benefits. My unemployment benefits ran out in January 2004. I want and need a fulltime job. Are there really more jobs being created or is this job recovery a false scheme to help get President Bush reelected.

Elaine Chao
I'm sorry to hear about your difficulties, but without question help is on the way. Job creation is thriving. We have experienced nine straight months of job growth, with 1.4 million new jobs created since last August across a broad range of industries and regions.

While we are encouraged about the recovery and are optimistic about future economic and job growth, we know there is more to be done. President Bush will not be satisfied until every American who wants a job can find one.

I would encourage you to visit your local One-Stop career center and take advantage of the resources and services they have available. As I mentioned earlier, go to , or call 1-877-US-2JOBS to locate the One-Stop career center nearest you.

Elaine Chao
Thanks for all the questions. Wish I could have answered more, but join Secretary Snow and Secretary Evans tomorrow on "Ask the White House" for more discussion on the economy.

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