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Obama Touts Stimulus Plan as US Unemployment Jumps

U.S. President Barack Obama says Friday's report showing unemployment in the United States has reached the highest level in 25 years, underscores the importance of the economic stimulus package he has signed in an effort to jump start the stalled economy.

President Obama says the world's largest economy has now lost 4.4 million jobs since the recession began 14 months ago.

The unemployment rate rose sharply to 8.1 percent in February, the highest in a quarter century.

Mr. Obama called the job losses "astounding." But he says the American people are up to the challenge of a rapidly deteriorating economy.

"But I also know that this country has never responded to a crisis by sitting on the sidelines and hoping for the best," he said. "I know that throughout our history, we have met every great challenge with bold action and big ideas. That is what has fueled a shared and lasting prosperity. And I know that at this defining moment for America we have a responsibility to ourselves and to our children to do it once again."

President Obama made his remarks in the Midwestern state of Ohio, a state hit hard by the recession. He spoke at a graduation ceremony for 25 police recruits, who owe their jobs to the massive spending bill the president signed into law last month.

Mr. Obama says the $787 billion stimulus package will save or create 3.5 million American jobs over the next two years.

"So for those who still doubt the wisdom of our recovery plan, I ask them to talk to the teachers who are still able to teach our children because we passed this plan," he said. "I ask them to talk to the nurses who are still able to care for our sick and the firefighters and first responders who are still able to keep our communities safe."

President Obama, in office less than two months, warns the economy's downward slide cannot be corrected quickly.

But he has also returned to his campaign message of hope for the future.

"If we are willing to look out for one another and listen to one another, if we are willing to pull together and do our part, if we can show even a fraction of the courage and selflessness that these cadets have already demonstrated, then I have no doubt that we will emerge from this crisis stronger than before and keep this nation's dream alive for future generations," he said.

President Obama has proposed a $3.5 trillion spending plan for the 2010 fiscal year.

The White House predicts the United States will enter the fiscal year with a budget deficit of $1.75 trillion, the largest since World War II.

Republican members of Congress, like Kevin Brady from Texas, say more government spending is not the answer to the ailing economy.

"Unfortunately, the administration's solution to the problem posed by this excessive debt burden is to propose an avalanche of more deficit spending and higher federal debt," he said.

Economic analysts expect the jobless rate will continue to rise, possibly as high as 10 percent of the American labor force.

The Obama administration is hoping to stabilize the fractured financial system and the collapsing housing market, which are at the heart of the recession.