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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Martin Regalia, Ron Blackwell

Aired September 1, 2003 - 20:29   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(VIDEO GAP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: When are we going to see the jobs begin to follow this improved economic situation?

MARTIN REGALIA, CHIEF ECONOMIST, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: I think we'll see job growth turning up very, very quickly. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw positive job growth when the report comes out this Friday. I think that we're going to see a declining unemployment rate by about the end of the year.

So it is right here and it is happening right now.

BLITZER: It looks like it could be turning around.

Is that true, from your assessment, Ron?

RON BLACKWELL, DIRECTOR OF CORPORATE AFFAIRS, AFL-CIO: Well, I certainly hope Martin is right. But I'm a little more cautious than he is. We have been hearing this, the recovery is just around the corner, for two years now. And the fact of the matter is, as you pointed out, we've lost 9 million -- there are 9 million people out there looking for jobs who can't find one. And for every three of those -- for every three of those people, there is one job to be had.

We have lost a million jobs since the recovery began. We have lost nearly 3 million jobs since George W. Bush occupied the White House, and...

BLITZER: But isn't it true, though, that usually when you have economic recoveries, jobs might be the last indicator, the last element to fall into place?

BLACKWELL: Well, jobs are a lagging indicator. And -- but the one thing that is important about jobs is that if we do have an acceleration, and there is some promising news in the second quarter report, especially with the increase in business spending, but unless employers, businesses start hiring people, no acceleration of growth will be sustainable.

BLITZER: The unemployment rate is what, Martin, the unemployment rate is about as high as it has been in nine years. Politically, that has enormous ramifications, obviously, for President Bush's reelection. If you go by the old adage, It's is the economy, stupid, do you think the economy will turn around in time for the election next year? REGALIA: Absolutely. I mean, we're seeing an acceleration already. Growth in the second quarter was 3.1 percent. That's still below our potential. We've got to get it up above 3.5. And so far, everything that we've have seen in the third quarter and the fourth quarter looks like growth could exceed 4 percent.

And if it does, we'll see job growth coming with it.

BLITZER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

REGALIA: But you're absolutely right, without job growth, we don't have a recovery.

BLITZER: Is that growth the result of the military spending, if you will, or is it the result of tax cuts that have been -- that have come into play over the past couple years?

REGALIA: Well, it's the result of both. But when you look at what happened in the second quarter, you saw consumption accelerating. You saw investment, really for the first time in a while. And those are not just military spending. So the military spending helped, but that wasn't the only thing we saw in that report.

And right now, in the reports we saw out last week, the monthly numbers, retail sales were up, personal disposable income growth was solid, and these are indicators that are clear signs of better times ahead.

BLITZER: What is the mood of the union workers, the AFL-CIO, your members right now, Ron?

BLACKWELL: We're very concerned about this. People are hurting in this country for lack of jobs. Even the people who have jobs are very anxious about losing their jobs, because businesses are laying people off as we sit here, not hiring people.

You know, it's important to understand that this is not just a soft economy that needs to get going again. It is a deeply unbalanced economy. Private sector debt is very high, both with the consumers and with business.

And to your answer, it's not government spending that's powering the economy right now, it's the consumer. But the consumer is about at the limit of what they're going to be able to do. And unless business starts spending money for plant and equipment and building new businesses and hiring people, we're not going to get out of this ditch (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: Well, let's hope we all get out of this ditch, the economy does indeed turn around, and quickly. A lot of people hurting right now. Ron Blackwell, Martin Regalia, thanks to both of you for joining us.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Wolf.

REGALIA: Thank you. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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