KANSAS CITY, Mo. President Bush prodded Congress to pass an economic stimulus package Friday, pointing to a new report that ended a 52-month streak of national job growth.
Bush was in the nation's heartland pressuring Congress to boost the sagging economy with a plan of tax rebates for millions of people and tax breaks for companies. His latest try came as the fragile partnership that led to an economic rescue deal in the House appeared to be unraveling in the Senate.
"Inflation's low. Productivity's high, but there are certainly some troubling signs, serious signs that the economy is weakening and that we've got to do something about it," Bush said.
In Washington, the Labor Department reported that employers cut 17,000 jobs in January the first such reduction in more than four years and a fresh sign that the economy might be stalling.
That report ended Bush's repeated claim made most recently in his State of the Union address that "America has added jobs for a record 52 straight months."
On Friday he said, "A serious matter is that for the first time in 52 months we didn't create jobs."
"And so the question is, what do we do about it? ... I do think government has a responsibility. I think government can take decisive action to help us deal with this period of uncertainty."
Job losses were widespread in January. Manufacturers, construction firms and a variety of professional and business services eliminated jobs, reflecting the toll of the housing and credit debacles.
Bush gave perhaps the gentlest push to Congress of his administration, in a shift in rhetoric toward the Senate on the stimulus package.
"I believe we can get this package done. I know it has to be done quickly," he said. "I appreciate the fact that the Senate is trying to work though this as quickly as possible. I'm just urging them to get it done because the sooner this package makes it to my desk ... the better off our economy is going to be."