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Commerce Secretary Says US Economy Strong, Resilient

Despite serious economic challenges ahead, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce says the nation's economy remains strong and resilient. Secretary Carlos Gutierrez says among the challenges are the continuing slump in the housing market, a shortage of skilled workers and the nation's continuing dependence on foreign oil.

From Hurricane Katrina to the recent correction in the housing market, Carlos Gutierrez says the U.S. economy has withstood shocks that would have toppled other economies. Speaking before the business community in Washington DC, the Secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez, hailed the nation's entrepreneurs as the true heroes of the economy.

"The reason our economy is strong is that U.S. businesses are strong. The stock market has hit record highs. Corporate profits were at a 40-year high for the third quarter. Small and medium sized businesses continue to contribute to the economy as well."

Gutierrez says small and medium sized businesses are responsible for nearly half of the entire U.S. payroll. And he says the success of those businesses is largely responsible for creating 167,000 new jobs in December -- or about seven million new jobs since August 2003.

In spite of the impressive job growth figures, the Cuban-born secretary says one of the most pressing challenges to continued growth is the shortage of high-skilled workers. "I can't tell you how often I hear that companies can't find enough workers and that's happening in industries throughout the country. Immigration is also a key solution to that problem."

Although U.S. lawmakers have addressed the issue of border security, Gutierrez says a temporary worker program that gives qualified workers a path to legalization will be high on the administration's list of priorities this year.

So is the need to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil. "We must also push for alternative resources such as biofuels and innovative technologies which will reduce our overall consumption and provide new opportunities for U.S. businesses," Gutierrez said.

To remain competitive around the world, Gutierrez outlined a three point plan which includes: maintaining America's position as the best place to do business; opening up more overseas markets and developing the most-skilled and best-educated workers in the world.