WICKER TOUTS POSITIVE ECONOMIC NEWS
REPORT FROM CONGRESS
By Congressman Roger F. Wicker
June 13, 2005
A drop in the nation's unemployment rate and an upward revision in overall growth figures are just two of several positive signs that the nation's economy remains strong and is getting stronger. A hike in the consumer confidence index is also welcome news for the economic recovery that is entering its third year.
Pro-growth policies pursued by this Congress and President Bush, including enactment of tax relief, have been key factors in bringing the economy back from the twin blows of recession and terrorist attack. The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report indicates that more Americans are working today than at any time in history. In just the past two years, 3.5 million people have been added to the workforce. The 5.1 percent unemployment figure recorded in May represents the lowest rate since September 2001.
In typical cautious fashion, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan was also upbeat in his assessment of the economy in comments before Congress' Joint Economic Committee last week. He noted the economy was on "reasonably firm footing and underlying inflation remains contained."
ECONOMY GREW BY 3.5 PERCENT
Growth figures for the first quarter of 2005 have been revised upward to show that the economy expanded at a rate of 3.5 percent. This rate of expansion is the highest among all the world's industrialized countries. The Consumer Confidence Index rose by more than five percentage points in May. Consumer attitudes have become a key measure of the nation's fiscal health, since consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of all U. S. economic activity.
The steady growth of our economy is also evident in other recent reports:
* Reducing budget deficit. The latest Congressional Budget Office report shows that increased revenues from an expanding economy are responsible for cutting the deficit by $73 billion over the same period in 2004.
* Booming home sales. According to the National Association of Realtors, sales of existing homes rose by 4.5 percent in April. Lower mortgage interest rates have helped boost homeownership to near-record levels with 69.1 percent of American families now owning their own homes.
* Construction spending up. The Commerce Department reported that construction spending rose again in April with a surge in office construction and residential home-building. Building activity reached a rate of more than $1 trillion.
Congress and the President continue to support initiatives that will build on our economic success. Among the priorities is making expiring tax relief provisions permanent, easing the regulatory burden and boosting incentives for small business development, and holding the line on federal spending.
Final action is expected on the long-overdue energy bill to help reduce our dependency on foreign oil, create jobs, and lead to lower gasoline prices for American consumers. I hope we will also consider the highway reauthorization bill before the August recess. This measure will provide funds to make our roadways safer and boost economic opportunities in Mississippi and across the country.