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Walden Op-Ed on New Job Figures, State of the Economy

WASHINGTON, DC -U.S. Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) authored the op-ed below on today's release of job figures that demonstrate the resurgence of the state and national economies. 

Economic Recovery Continues Steadily and Surely
Congressman Greg Walden
June 18, 2004

As the representative of central, southern and eastern Oregon, I travel almost every weekend through small towns that never enjoyed the roaring 90s and have been hit particularly hard in the latest recession.  Fortunately, job figures released on Friday give us hope that Oregon's economy is slowly but surely recovering and Oregonians who need family wage jobs are returning to work.

Last month, 6,000 jobs were created in Oregon, bringing the total number of Oregon jobs created this year to 22,300.  While Oregon's 6.8% unemployment rate remains the second highest in the nation behind Alaska, it's clear that progress has been made since this time last year, when the state's unemployment rate stood at a staggering 8.6%.  The current rate for our state approaches the average rate we experienced during the 1990s.

National figures give us even greater cause for optimism.  The U.S. economy grew at a strong annual pace of 4.4% during the first quarter of 2004 - well above the historical average - and economic growth over the last year has reached the fastest rate in nearly 20 years.  New job figures released this month denote the third consecutive month of record employment jumps.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics announced that employers added 248,000 new payroll jobs last month.  More than 1.4 million more payroll jobs have been added since August 2003, with 9 consecutive months of gains.  During the past year Oregon has added approximately 34,000 jobs to the nation's economy.

Two-thirds of the one million payroll jobs that have been added nationwide since the beginning of this year were in industries that pay more than the national average.  The rising trends have continued this month as over 70 percent of the payroll jobs added in May were in industries that pay more than the national average for non-supervisory workers of $15.64 per hour.

Despite undeniable signs of recovery, many politicians, including Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, have buried their heads in the sand and tried to convince the American people that we're experiencing the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.  Ironically, when President George W. Bush sought to pass tax relief for every income tax-paying American as a means of stimulating economic growth, Democrats accused him of "talking down the economy."  There's no shortage of shamelessness in an election season, but it's hard to imagine that this tactic will succeed in the face of the steady gains we've made in recent months.  Perhaps that's why Senator Kerry's rhetoric about the "jobless" recovery has been stricken from the lines of his recent stump speeches.

Under President Bush's leadership, Democrats and Republicans alike recognized that putting money back into the pockets of working families was the most effective means of stimulating economic growth.  After all, it doesn't take a degree in economics to understand that consumer spending drives the economy and people spend more when they are allowed to keep more of what they earn.

While the economic recovery is continuing steadily, more work must be done.  President Bush and the congressional leadership have vowed to fight for a job for every American who wants to work, and with tens of thousands of family-wage jobs being added every month, I'm confident that we're doing everything we can to follow through on that promise.

Congressman Walden represents the Second District of Oregon, which includes 20 counties in southern, central and eastern Oregon.  He is a Deputy Whip and a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the House Committee on Resources.  Walden was recently named Chairman of the Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health.






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