THE nation's unemployment rate rose from 6.9 percent to 7.1 percent in December, the government said, reaching its highest level in nearly six years.
A separate survey of businesses showed a net gain of 31,000 nonfarm jobs in in December, but the slight increase fell far short of compensating for the 265,000 jobs lost in November. Congress immediately called for action. President Bush acknowledged that he is "disappointed" in the December unemployment figures.
But Bush, just returned from a trade trip to the Pacific Rim, said, "Our work over the last few days will help open markets for American companies and provide more jobs for our workers.... The results will be clear and measurable."