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Bush: Stimulus Will Help Economy

The U.S. economy lost 20,000 jobs in April as higher food and fuel costs continue to slow economic growth. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, U.S. President George Bush says tax refunds and business incentives should help improve the economy by July.

It was the fourth consecutive monthly decline for American workers, bringing the total number of jobs lost so far this year to more than 250,000. But April's drop was smaller than some economists projected, and the unemployment rate fell slightly to five percent.

Speaking to workers in the Midwest state of Missouri, President Bush said the economy is not as robust as he would like, but he is certain it will improve.

"I know it is tough times. And I know you are having to pay more at the fuel pump then you want, but this economy is going to come on. I'm confident that it will," he said.

The president says a temporary economic stimulus package of tax rebates and business incentives should start helping turn the economy around by the start of the third financial quarter in July.

The first of those tax rebates to more than 130 million households went out this week. The rest will follow throughout May.

There was April job growth in education and health care, but not enough to make up for sharp losses in construction and manufacturing.

The U.S. automotive industry says vehicle sales are at their slowest in ten years. The world's largest automaker, General Motors, says it is reducing production of large pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles at four plants in the United States and Canada because of poor sales.

Higher gasoline and food prices are depressing U.S. retail sales. Home prices nationwide are down ten percent. Consumer confidence is at a five-year low.

Much of the current slowdown follows the crisis that hit the housing market earlier this year. Many new homebuyers got low introductory interest rates, but were unable to meet their mortgage payments when those rates went up, leading to record foreclosures.

Public opinion polls say the economy has replaced the war in Iraq as the single biggest issue on the minds of voters ahead of November's presidential election. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll this past week says 73 percent of Americans believe the nation is heading in the wrong direction.