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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 November, 2003, 10:45 GMT
Workers' woes dog President Bush

By Kevin Anderson
BBC News in Washington

Jim Morrow continues his job search
Jim Morrow is one of the millions of Americans looking for work

In a 30-year career, Jim Morrow had been unemployed for a total of four weeks.

That was until the current economic downturn in the United States. He lost his job 15 months ago and has been unable to find work.

The US recession officially ended in November 2001, and recent growth figures show the American economy growing at a blistering pace.

But so far, the recovery has not reversed the loss of jobs, and people like Mr Morrow are still having difficulty finding work.

The White House says the economic good news show that its policies are working, but George W Bush remains vulnerable as long as the recovery remains a jobless one.

The educated unemployed

Jim Morrow has had a long and successful career in the transportation industry, rising through the ranks until he was vice president of a company in Maryland.

He has ridden out economic cycles in the past, but the attacks of 11 September and the bust after the boom of 1990s hit the transportation industry hard.

He has been unable to find work and has had to rely on his wife's income.

The emotional impact has been as devastating as the economic hardship.
Job seekers
Despite rapid economic expansion, the US economy continues to shed jobs

"I've gone through all the cycles. First of all you get angry, then you go through a depression, and then you wonder what it is that you want to do," he said.

Ellie Wegener founded the Employment Support Centre in Washington 19 years ago during the crippling economic recession of the early 1980s.

The centre runs job clubs around the Washington DC area to help people find jobs. She says this recession is different than those in the past.

"Many more middle income, middle management workers have been hit," she said.

These workers are highly educated, highly experienced and with incomes reaching $100,000 a year.

The economy and the election

The uncertain economy remains a political liability for the president.

Mr Morrow voted for President Bush. "I thought he had the right ideas," he said.

However, he does not see the president's economic policies working and believes it could cost Mr Bush the White House.

"The economy cannot be in this position at this time next year for him to be re-elected," he said.

The economic picture remains clouded. While the US economy grew by 7.2% in the third quarter of 2003, it still shed an additional 41,000 jobs.
Presidential candidate Howard Dean
Since President Bush moved into the White House, 3.2 million Americans have lost their jobs
Howard Dean, Democrat presidential candidate

Almost 3 million jobs have been lost since Mr Bush became president, and that could be his Achilles heel in his hopes for re-election.

For much of the past two years, companies have been able to meet demand with excess capacity built up during the booming 1990s.

Labour costs, specifically the cost of providing healthcare coverage for employees, is also deterring business from adding to payrolls.

During the third quarter of 2003 alone, medical benefits costs increased by 6.5%, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics.

Voters' perception of their economic situation is key to President Bush's re-election hopes, said Alan Lichtman, political historian with American University.

"If the economy is bright and the American people believe their economic prospects are good, it is going to take a bolt from the blue to drive this president out of office," he said.

"If the economy is questionable, then everything is called into doubt," he said, adding, "The dark lining in this silver cloud of growth is the lack of jobs."

If the growth does not translate into more jobs, Democrats will argue that George Bush's economic policies help the president's rich friends but not average, middle-class Americans, Mr Lichtman said.

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