President Bush says an increase in new jobs in March shows the U.S. economy is getting stronger. Democrats say the president is still not doing enough to stop U.S. companies from sending jobs overseas.
With more than 300,000 new jobs last month, President Bush says the U.S. economy is growing and more people are finding work.
"This economy is strong," said the president. "It is getting stronger. You can understand why I am optimistic when I cite these statistics because I remember what we have been through. I mean, we are getting better."
U.S. job growth for March was the biggest gain in about four years with increases in construction, retail, and health care. More than 130 million Americans are now working and over eight million are officially counted as unemployed.
That is a slight increase in the unemployment rate to 5.7 percent. Friday's figures list half a million Americas as so-called "discouraged" workers who want jobs but have stopped looking. Including them in the unemployment total would push that rate to six percent.
The economy is central to the president's re-election bid, especially job growth, as nearly two million Americans have lost their jobs since Mr. Bush took office.
His democratic challenger in the November vote, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, has criticized the president for not doing more to prevent U.S. companies from shipping jobs overseas.
Senator Kerry welcomed the March job figures but said there is still pain for many families living through what he called the "worst job recovery since the Great Depression" of the 1930's.
Senator Kerry says job losses show Americans need and deserve a new economic strategy. He is promising to create 10 million jobs in four years, in part, by helping small businesses and rolling back tax cuts for Americans making more than $200,000 a year.
President Bush is also calling for more help for small business owners and says his tax cuts are helping to stimulate the economy. Speaking at a West Virginia community college, Mr. Bush again called on members of Congress to make all the tax cuts he has proposed permanent.
"Congress doesn't need to be taking away the child credit, or the marriage penalty or the increase of those eligible for the 10 percent bracket," he said. "They need to make these tax cuts permanent. Small business owners need to have certainty in the tax code if they are going to be confident about expanding their businesses."
The president won just over half of West Virginia's votes in the 2000 election, and his campaign has made the state a focus of this year's drive for re-election.