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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 1, 2002

Economy and Fleischer

Excerpts from the August 1, 2002 Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer

Click here for the full transcript

QUESTION The President has been saying all along that the fundamentals of the Economy are strong. But today we had some manufacturing numbers that came out showing that manufacturing slowed a lot more than expected in July. So why is he so confident? And what fundamentals is he referring to?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, Heidi, as you know from being a financial reporter, on any given day, you're going to have a wide variety of data released. And much of the data can give different pictures of the Economy. But, by every measure, most of the data that is coming out does support the private sector belief, the government's belief that the Economy is growing.

Yesterday we talked about that blue chip private forecasters continue to believe that the Economy will grow between 3 and 3.5 percentage points this year. The Federal Reserve economists have come to the same conclusion, that the Economy will grow by 3 and 3.5 percentage points. And so every given day, all the experts review all the data that come out, and reach those conclusions.

QUESTION But are there any data that you can point to other than forecasts, projections, actual data showing that we're in a recovery?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, certainly the fact that the Economy grew by 5.0 percentage points in the first quarter. The Economy grew, but a much smaller amount than the President would have liked, in the second quarter. When you take a look in the first-time claims for unemployment, you'll still see that there is -- first-time claims are below levels that would raise alarms.

So that today's release, for example, on first-time claims -- it comes out every Thursday. The employment picture remains somewhat strong in those reports. So, again, you can take a look at the scores of reports that come out on a weekly basis.


QUESTION There's been some question about long-term unemployment, and that that is not moving as quickly -- unemployment not moving as quickly as people would like, as the economists hope. Is the President going to be doing anything about trying to address that specific issue?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that is one of the issues that the President is most concerned about. The President, when he began the year, warned about the risks of a jobless recovery, urged Congress to take action on the stimulus package and extended unemployment benefits for 13 weeks to help people who were unemployed.

The President believes that if any one person is unemployed, that's one person too many. And that's something that the President will continue to focus on as he looks to get the Economy moving in even higher numbers than it already is.

The stimulus package did include some of what the President asked for. It did not include all of what the President asked for to help give a boost to the Economy. But given the fact that we also learned yesterday that the recession actually began earlier than anybody thought, lasted longer than anybody thought, the unemployment rate is at a lower level than it historically has been for most recessions.

But it remains a top priority for the President. And the best way to deal with unemployment, to deal with the Economy, is for Congress to continue its work to send trade promotion authority to the President. And one of the best ways to create jobs fastest is for Congress to take action on terrorism insurance legislation -- without which, hundreds of thousands of construction jobs are at risk, because businesses are not getting the insurance they need. And most of the businesses affected are in urban areas, and these businesses are involved in the construction trades, but they can't get insurance for their large construction projects.

Talk about a provision that affects the bread and butter of working-class Americans, this is an issue where the Senate -- the Congress has yet to act. And the President hopes they will.


QUESTION: Ari, was the President encouraged by the arrests of WorldCom -- two WorldCom executives this morning? And do actions like that provide the sort of deterrent the President was seeking when he signed the Corporate Responsibility Act?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the Justice Department will have additional announcements, or an announcement, to make later today about this topic. But suffice it to say the President is determined that people who break America's laws and engage in corporate practices that are corrupt will be investigated and will be held liable, will be held accountable, and will likely end up in the pokey, where they belong.

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