U.S. President Barack Obama is calling on Republican lawmakers to drop their opposition to a bill he says will help small businesses grow. The president urged action on the jobs bill shortly after receiving more bad news about U.S. unemployment.
A half-million Americans filed first-time claims for unemployment insurance last week, according to the Labor Department. That is the highest number since November, and the fourth rise in jobless claims in the last five weeks.
President Obama says 60 percent of the job losses are at small businesses, and those businesses need help.
"These are the businesses that usually create most of the jobs in this country. And this report, combined with this morning's news that unemployment claims rose again, compels us to act.," he said.
The president said Thursday the jobs bill will enable many small businesses to get loans and other money they need to grow and hire.
He blamed opposition Republicans for blocking the bill for political purposes.
"And yet, the obstruction continues. It is obstruction that stands in the way of small business owners getting the loans and the tax cuts that they need to prosper. It is obstruction that defies common sense," said the president.
In another ominous economic report, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said Thursday the government's budget deficit would reach $1.3 trillion dollars this year, the largest in 65 years.
Also, a regional branch of the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, said its monthly manufacturing index fell to its lowest level in almost a year, which shows the economic recovery is slowing.
And a private research group, the Conference Board, said it expects slow economic growth through the end of the year. However, it said the country does not appear to be headed for another economic downturn.
President Obama has said the U.S. economy is growing, but not quickly enough.