MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. – President Bush says the slow growth of the economy is "not good enough for America," but new rebate checks will inject some life and spending soon.
"This economy is going to come on," Bush said Friday. "I'm confident it will."
Rebate checks of up to $600 for individuals and $1,200 for couples are starting to hit bank accounts this week. They are part of a broader economic stimulus plan that also includes tax breaks for businesses as an incentive to invest.
Bush called it "a robust attempt to inject life" into the economy that hasn't fully kicked in yet. His pep talk came while visiting a technology plant in this St. Louis suburb.
Overall, the economy grew at a meager 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2008. That was the same pace as in the final three months of last year.
"That's not good enough for America," Bush said. "It's positive growth, but we can do better than that."
Bush spoke as the latest employment report showed a modest tick of good news.
Employers cut far fewer jobs in April than in recent months and the unemployment rate dropped to 5 percent, a better-than-expected showing. Still, the economy lost jobs for the fourth month in a row, the Labor Department reported a few hours before Bush's speech.
"The good news is that we anticipated this," Bush said of the economic slowdown.
He said his administration and Congress — in a stalemate on many fronts — managed to agree on the package of rebate checks.
"You're going to get some money," Bush told employees of World Wide Technology. "Turns out, it's your money, but you're going to get it back."
The sagging economy continues to dominate Bush's final year in office. The president has sought to show he understands the concerns of families — and, at the same time, to pin blame on the Democratic-run Congress for inaction.
A massive housing slump, a credit crunch and turmoil in the financial markets have combined to sour the economy and the nation's mood. Families are feeling the pinch at the grocery store and the gas pump, and many worry about keeping their job or their home.
Bush is counting on the $168 billion stimulus program to lift spirits and sales.
"It's big enough," Bush said in defense of the package on Friday.
Yet some Democrats in Congress want more relief to be provided, including additional unemployment benefits to cushion the pain of joblessness. The administration's view is that the current economic plan should be given a chance to work before another is adopted.
"It's time for President Bush to be realistic about the economy and start working with the Congress on a second economic stimulus package that will deliver real relief to Americans now," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, head of the House Democratic Caucus.
Addressing soaring gasoline prices, Bush said he understands the "pain" consumers are feeling. He pressed Congress to allow more drilling for oil in areas where it is now prohibited, and to encourage the construction of more oil refineries — both familiar calls.