THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, this morning we received another reminder of the challenges facing working families: the nation's payroll contracted again last month -- 345,000 jobs -- and the unemployment rate rose to 9.4 percent, the highest jobless rate in almost 26 years.
Now, although these numbers are tough, they also -- they're also much more than numbers. Behind every one of these job losses is a family, an individual, community that's trying to make it through the deepest recession in a decade and are hurting, are hurt badly by it. But there's also some signs of hope today in the report, and a few signs that our actions to get this economy back on track are beginning to make some difference.
Analysts, as you all know -- and many of you are reporting -- expected that we'd lose more than 500,000 jobs in May. Instead, we lost $345,000 [sic] -- 345,000 jobs, nearly a third fewer than were expected. That's the lowest number of job loss since this past September, and the fourth month in a row that we're shedding fewer jobs than the month before.
Now, I don't expect that to satisfy anyone. It doesn't satisfy me. It doesn't satisfy the President. It doesn't satisfy our economic advisors. Particularly, it doesn't satisfy anyone who is out there struggling to get by.
And it's especially the case for our nation's factories. We lost more than 150,000 of those jobs last month in states hardest hit by the restructuring of the auto industry. And I might add, my state of Delaware has been particularly hit hard by the automobile industry along with Michigan and other major -- big states.
And let me be very clear: A lower job rate loss is not our goal. "Less bad" is not how we're going to measure success -- we're going to measure success here in the White House. We will not be satisfied until we're adding jobs on a monthly basis; providing working Americans with a stable job, dependable income; ensuring that everyone who wants to make their way into the middle class has a shot to get into the middle class. And that's why we're continuing to act, continuing to do everything we can to turn this economy around and jump start the American job machine, which has a way to go yet.
So, look, in just over a hundred days -- the Recovery Act is only a hundred days old -- there is new economic activity and job creation in every single state in this country. For example, more than $11 billion in highway funds, in highway construction funds, have been made available for a total of 3,600 projects in states all across the nation.
And I'm pleased that today's report shows some signs -- some signs that all this activity is having this desired impact. Construction unemployment, for example, is down 59,000 jobs in May, cutting in half the average of 125,000 jobs lost each month over the first four months of this year. And so there is some direct signs that what we're doing is having an impact.
And, yes, it's an encouraging sign. But I want to make it clear -- and caution everyone -- there's certainly going to be more setbacks on the road before we get finally to recovery. As much progress is already made, we still have a long, long way to go in the road to recovery. And that's why on Monday the President and I will be announcing our plans to ramp up the Recovery Act implementation over the summer.
And over the longer term, we know that the economic future of this country depends on the unique skills of the working men and women of this country, on them getting health care and getting those health care costs under control, and on building a clean-energy future to build this new economy on.
So together these initiatives will not only spark job growth today, but we are absolutely convinced they're going to serve as a foundation, a platform, for an economic growth spurt of tomorrow not based on a bubble, but based on real, sound economic practices and growth. And we're working to build that foundation every day we're here, and I think we're making some discernable progress.
I remain confident that the country is going to emerge from this recession, and it's going to emerge stronger and wiser than it was before we went in. We're going to take steps to reform the excesses that brought this economy down to ensure that the benefits of growth are shared with hard-working, middle-class families.
Last time we were in a recovery, we actually had productivity increase and people lost 3 percent, middle-class folks lost 3 percent of their economy; the productivity grew 20 percent, and they got 3 percent behind. That's not the objective of this administration. So when this growth occurs, we hope everyone is going to share in it, we think it will.
So President Obama and I are going to commit to everything we can to meet the goals that we stated. But in the end, as always, it's going to be the enduring and actually, the boundless ingenuity of the American people that's going to ultimately allow us to prevail.
To sum it up -- encouraging signs, but a long, long way to go. Thank you all very much.