Video: Economy remains top concern

By Anne Thompson Chief environmental correspondent
NBC News
updated 1/20/2004 7:37:13 PM ET 2004-01-21T00:37:13

Though the economy is still near the top of voters’ concerns, there are clear signs it is getting better.  Wall Street is on a roll, business profits are up and companies are spending money again.

Rocky de Carlo invested $70,000 for a new grinder in his Philadelphia Carbide Co. machine parts factory, and it has boosted his productivity. The art of doing more with less — and it’s helped his bottom line.

“Productivity’s the way we keep our prices down. And we can also put more product out the door quicker.  We don’t have to hire anybody,” said DeCarlo.

And that’s the problem with the economy — and a political sore spot for President Bush.

Some 2.3 million jobs have been lost during Bush’s term and, despite recent red-hot economic growth, the job market has yet to catch fire.  Its being held down, economists say, by a lack of business confidence and the rising cost of health care.

According to Economy.com Chief Economist Mark Zandi, “It’s a cost for them that’s difficult to bear, and thus they are not hiring workers to the degree that they otherwise would.”

Ed and Avril Sobolik know all about that.  They’re selling their house in Massachusetts and heading for Florida, hoping to find jobs there. After more than two years out of work, they’ve burned through their stock portfolio and retirement savings.

“We’ve been here for over 25 years in this house.  And we like this area, and it — it’s great.  But there’s no work for us anymore,” said Avril Sobolik.

What can the president do?  With a growing deficit, some say his options are few.

“He has cut taxes three times during his presidency. He’s lifted government spending very aggressively in an effort to get the economy moving and creating jobs.  He’s done pretty much all he can do at this point,” Zandi added.

The president, along with more than 8 million Americans out of work, is still waiting for the recovery to create the final crucial element — jobs.

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