The government reports unemployment in the United States has risen to a two-year high, and that unsettling economic news triggered a sharp decline in financial markets Friday.

The U.S. Labor Department said Unemployment in the United States rose by three-tenths of one percent in December, to an overall level of five percent - the highest jobless rate since 2005.

After the report was aired, U.S. stock prices plummeted. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined almost two percent in Friday's trading, and the NASDAQ index plunged nearly four percent.

At the White House, President Bush said the U.S. economy "is on a strong foundation" despite those adverse indicators. The VOA White House correspondent says Mr. Bush is considering an economic-stimulus package that could include tax cuts.

Details of the president's economic plan may not be disclosed until his State of the Union message later this month, but analysts say the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, is now more likely to cut interest rates further, to keep the economy from slowing down too much.

In addition to the rise in unemployment, Friday's economic report from the U.S. Labor Department showed there was a meager net gain of 18,000 jobs during December - the smallest increase in jobs in four years.