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Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Scott McClellan, February 23, 2004 (Full Transcript)

QUESTION: Scott, the President said many -- many times in the last few years that the tax cuts that he pushed through Congress would create jobs. And in his remarks to the governors this morning, he said the unemployment rate, which is now 5.6, is a good number. That raised some eyebrows in the --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, he said, given the -- given the circumstances of what we've been through. The unemployment rate is declining. And it's moving in the right direction. And I would remind you that it's below the average of the '70s, '80s, and '90s. And it continues to go on a steady decline from 6.3 percent in June 2003, where it was.

QUESTION: But some of the governors said that there was concern, from both sides of the aisle, raised in that session about the quality of jobs that the economy is gaining; that the manufacturing jobs that have disappeared were pretty good-paying jobs, and that the jobs that are being created now so far aren't at that level. Is that a concern that the President shares?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he's concerned about the loss of any job. And the President is not satisfied, because there are still people looking for work who cannot find a job. And I would remind you what the President said in his remarks to the governors. The economy is strong and growing stronger, and it is moving in the right direction. But there is more to do to create a more robust environment for job creation.

We've seen 366,000 new jobs created in the last five months. We've seen the unemployment continue its steady decline -- it is now at the lowest point in two years. So things are moving in the right direction. But we continue to need to take additional steps to create as robust an environment for job creation as possible. That's why he's calling on Congress to act on his six-point plan. The last thing we need to do is turn back from the direction we are moving. We continue to need to build upon the efforts that the President has undertaken previously.

QUESTION: I have two questions, if I may. The President wants to bring Hispanics from south of the border to this country to work. But the latest unemployment figures show 7.3 percent of Hispanics in America are unemployed. Why not put them to work first?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you're mischaracterizing the President's proposal, first of all. The proposal on immigration that you mentioned was relating to a temporary worker program where you would be filling jobs that Americans cannot be found to fill first.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: We know the President married well and we know he has trouble with English, but does he really have big biceps? (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: No, but you did bring up an issue that the President feels strongly about, and that is to promote healthy choices. And it's something he has been very committed to, leading by example on.

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