WASHINGTON – President Bush said Saturday that Americans may have cause this Labor Day weekend to start worrying less about the nation's — and their families' — economic health.
"There have been some recent signs that our economy is beginning to improve," Bush said in his weekly radio address.
Among the positive signs that Bush referenced was a report Thursday that the overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, rose by 3.3 percent in the April-June quarter. This surprised analysts and was a significant rebound from growth of just 0.9 percent in the first quarter of the year. Most credit was given to the $93 billion in economic stimulus payments the federal government has sent to households since May.
However, other economic news this week showed that right after that second quarter, in July, consumer spending slowed to a crawl and personal incomes plunged.
With few stimulus payments still to go out, some economists worry consumer spending will continue to falter. Since it accounts for two-thirds of economic activity, that could send economic growth tumbling again in the second half of the year, particularly given rising unemployment, a continuing credit crisis and the deepest housing slump in decades.
Democrats, including presidential nominee Barack Obama, are calling for the government to pass a second stimulus package to guard against that.
But Bush has resisted, expressing concern about the impact on the budget deficit and insisting the rebate payments will continue to support the economy in coming months.
He praised the impact of the current stimulus package in language that suggested he remains opposed to another.
"The economic stimulus package that I signed earlier this year is having its intended effect," the president said. "Many Americans who received tax rebates are spending them. Businesses are taking advantage of tax incentives to purchase new equipment this year. And there are signs that the stimulus package will continue to have a beneficial impact on the economy in the second half of the year."
Still, despite his optimistic outlook, Bush took care to express sympathy with those grappling daily with pocketbook worries.
"There are families across our country struggling to make ends meet," he said. "There is an understandable concern about the high price of gas and food. And many Americans are worried about the health of our housing and job markets. I share these concerns about our economy."