Labor: Employers Tightened Belts, Cut Jobs

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A new labor department report shows that employers cut 17,000 jobs last month, the first payroll reduction in more than four years.

Economists had predicted there would be job growth last month, but the latest figures suggest employers have grown cautious as they try to cope with fallout from the housing and credit crisis.

This slowdown in wage growth is another indication that employers are tightening their belts.

President Bush used the report to press Congress again on his economic stimulus plan. The house has already approved the stimulus package, but it's still being hotly debated in the Senate.

"The sooner we can get money into our consumer's hands, the more likely it is that this economy can recover from this period of uncertainty," Bush said. "The fundamentals are strong, we're just in a rough patch. I'm confident we can get through this rough patch and one way we can do it is for congress and the administration to work collaboratively and to get this deal done."

Bush made his remarks while touring Hallmark Cards Inc. in the nation's heartland.

"Interest rates are low, inflation is low, productivity is high, but there are certainly some troubling signs," Bush said. "There are serious signs that the economy is weakening and that we got to do something about it.

The House quickly adopted a $161 billion economic stimulus plan this week that would send $600-$1,200 rebates to more than 100 million Americans in hopes they would spend the money quickly and give the flagging economy a shot in the arm.

But Senate Democrats are pushing to add elements to the House plan that they say will add a bigger boost, including smaller rebates that would go to more people such as low-income older Americans, wealthier taxpayers and disabled veterans, plus heating aid for the poor. T

he Senate plan, estimated to cost $204 billion, also would extend unemployment benefits.

Fun at Hallmark

But economic concerns didn't stop Bush from having some fun.

At Hallmark, he stepped an interactive playhouse filled with art supplies and colorful props.

As kindergartners buzzed from station to station, Bush patted the kids on their heads and leaned way over so he could talk to them face to face.

When he sat down to make his own card with a red marker, Bush looked at reporters and asked, "Who deserves a valentine?"

Sources: CBN News, The Associated Press

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