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Last Updated: Friday, 6 January 2006, 21:45 GMT
Bush shrugs off weak US jobs data
President Bush during Chicago visit
President Bush was bullish about the prospects for the US
President George Bush has shrugged off weaker-than-expected jobs figures, hailing the strong US economy as "the envy of the industrialised world".

Mr Bush also declared the US economy was heading into 2006 "with a full head of steam", at a speech in Chicago.

He trumpeted rising consumer confidence and strong retail sales as evidence of America's economic strength.

The claims came despite figures showing 108,000 jobs were created in December, less than half analysts had forecast.

Trend warning

However, Treasury Secretary John Snow warned it was unwise to read too much into the latest employment data, pointing out that November's figures had been revised sharply upwards.

The Labor Department said US employers created 305,000 jobs in November, an increase from its previous estimate of 215,000.

In 2005, the American economy turned in a performance that is the envy of the industrialised world
President Bush

"I wouldn't read too much into one month's numbers," Mr Snow said in an interview with CNBC.

Mr Snow was just one of a number of top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, sent across the US to tout the country's economic achievements.

On Thursday, retailers unveiled better-than-expected holiday sales figures while figures late last month showed consumer confidence had risen to its highest levels since Hurricane Katrina - leaving consumers more confident than they had been at the start of 2005.

Sharp rises in sentiment tend to herald sharp increases in spending.

Meanwhile, business leaders have said they are looking forward to a "robust" year of growth during 2006, in the wake of official figures showing a third-quarter economic growth rate of 4.3% - the highest since early 2004.

Robust performance

"In 2005, the American economy turned in a performance that is the envy of the industrialised world," Mr Bush told the Chicago Economic Club.

"We're productive. We're innovative. We're entrepreneurial, and the role of government is to keep it that way."

However, critics countered the claims saying the average American was facing bigger bills following a rise in healthcare and prescription costs as well as increasing energy bills.

"For the administration to be out there saying things are great shows just how out of touch they are with the average American," Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer said.

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