Excerpts from the Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan, March 5, 2004 (Full Transcript)QUESTION: Will you comment on the monthly job creation numbers today? Is the administration going to revive its job projections --
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure. I think today's report underscores the importance of continuing on the path of the President's pro-growth policies to create as robust an environment for job creation as possible. The economy continues to grow stronger, and new jobs are being added. Today's unemployment report marks the sixth consecutive month of increases in new jobs. We've seen 364,000 new jobs created over the past six months. The unemployment rate is at 5.6 percent. That is the -- it's the largest eight-month decline since 1995, and still below the average unemployment rates of the '70s and '80s and '90s.
The President's policies are working to put the economy on the road to a strong recovery. But there is more to do. The President is not satisfied. And that's why he's continuing to call for action on his six-point plan, to create even a stronger environment for job growth. And I think that you have to keep in mind when you're looking at the employment report, that the choice for our nation is clear when it comes to economic security. Either we continue to grow the economy and create new jobs through the President's pro-growth, pro-jobs policies, or we raise taxes on families and small businesses and slow our economic recovery and future job creation. And so that's where it is.
QUESTION: You said the President is not satisfied with these numbers. But these numbers are nearly 100,000 fewer jobs than had been predicted for the month. I mean, it goes beyond not being satisfied, doesn't it? Is the President disappointed by the rate of growth in jobs?
MR. McCLELLAN: He's not satisfied. There are people that are still looking for work who cannot find a job, and there's more that we need to do. That's why the President has put forward a six-point plan to create an even more robust environment for job creation.
Keep in mind that -- what I pointed out about the unemployment rate, and keep in mind that GDP grew by almost 6.1 percent in the second half of 2003. And that was the biggest gain for a six-month period in nearly two decades. Real disposable income for Americans is up. Productivity is high. There are a lot of good signs about the direction we are moving, and we're on the road to a strong recovery. But there's more to do. And that's why I said the President is not satisfied. But new jobs are being created.
QUESTION: Does there come point, though, where despite his six-point plan, the President starts to realize that one's ability in that office to influence the economy and influence job creation is rather limited?
MR. McCLELLAN: There are additional steps that we can take that build on the policies we have already implemented to creating a more robust environment for job creation. The policies the President has worked to implement are working. The tax relief is working. Remember, we came into office with a recession; then we had the September 11th attacks; we had the corporate scandals; we had the lead-up to war. So there -- this economy has been through a lot. But this President acted to get it growing strong, and it is continuing to grow strong. But he is not satisfied. There is, obviously, more that we need to do. And that's why he has been calling for Congress to act on the six-point plan that he has outlined.
We live in a changing economy, we're in a different kind of economy. And that's why the President has also outlined a 21st century jobs initiative, to make sure that workers are trained with the skills that they need to fill the high-paying, high-skill jobs of the 21st century. And he will continue to work to make sure that we meet the needs of this changing economy.
QUESTION: Scott, one more on the jobs question. The number of jobs created in the private sector last month was zero. Is that good news?
MR. McCLELLAN: Mark, the jobs over the last six months that have been added are some 364,000. The economy is moving in the right direction, but there is clearly more to do. And the President has a plan to create an even more robust environment to create more jobs.
QUESTION: Last month's numbers, though, would you consider that good news?
MR. McCLELLAN: Mark, again, the President is simply not satisfied. There is more that we need to do. That's the way I would describe it. But if you look over the last six months, the economy is strong and growing stronger. New jobs are being created. If you look at the household survey it takes a different look at the job numbers. So there are different numbers out there.
But the bottom line is that there are still people who are hurting in this economy, and there is more that we need to do. And the President has a plan to address that. And the last thing we need to do at this point in our economy when it's moving in the right direction is raise taxes on families, or raise taxes on small businesses, or take actions that isolate us from the rest of the world. Economic isolation is not an answer to the problems. We need to expand free trade, we need to continue to expand free trade. We need to continue to stop frivolous lawsuits. We need to have meaningful lawsuit reform. We need to continue to act on the health care policies that address the rising cost of health care, to create an even more prosperous economic environment.
QUESTION: Scott, one more on jobs. Last August, the President had many of the Cabinet members at the ranch to review the economy. In interviews afterwards, Secretary Evans, on August 13th said, "As we move into the fall and we watch the economy, if it's not performing how we expect it to perform, the President will consider other action." What other action has he considered, other than --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the other action is the six-point plan he put forward, the Jobs for the 21st Century Initiative that he has outlined, that he outlined in his State of the Union address. So there are a number of policies that this President has put forward. Those are the policies that Congress needs to act on to create an even more robust environment for job creation.