Thank you, Chairman Sarbanes.
I appreciate your calling this hearing today. I enjoyed the chance to hear from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan last week, and I look forward to hearing from the well-respected group of leading economists before us today.
Last week, we took an important step forward in dealing with the downturn in our economy. Congress finally passed an economic stimulus bill that contains a 13 week extension of unemployment benefits as well as strategic investment incentives for businesses. This was a balanced approach that I am glad to support. I only wish that it hadnít taken so long for a compromise to be worked out.
While the economic stimulus bill was an important step forward, our work is not done. We are going to have to watch the economic outlook closely.
Recently, as we all know, the Department of Labor announced that there was a net gain in the country of 66,000 jobs in February Ė one of the most sizable gains in a year.
However, we unfortunately after temper any calls for celebration.
After these numbers came out, K-Mart, based in Troy, in my state of Michigan, announced that it would eliminate 22,000 jobs as part of its bankruptcy proceedings. This is a very disappointing but not necessarily unexpected announcement for the people of Michigan as well as for the many of employees around the rest of the country who will be losing their jobs.
We will have to wait and see if other troubled companies follow suit.
For the most part, the economy, as Chairman Greenspan pointed out, is, indeed, showing signs of turning around, but I am wondering, as I know are many others, what sort of recovery we will see. Without pent-up consumer demand as is typical in many recoveries, it is unclear how strongly the recovery will take hold. We should also be concerned that the housing marketís phenomenal activity over the past few years may weaken somewhat. And, we need to expand a discussion on the lack of savings by the American public and what this means in the long-run.
I also remain concerned about the impact of a strong dollar and a weak yen on the automotive sector as well as other manufacturing industries.
Mr. Chairman, there is a great deal of uncertainty about what we can anticipate in the year ahead. We are seeing revised forecasts for increased economic growth, yet some still worry that we may see a so-called W recession Ė a situation in which we have a recession, a recovery, then a second dip down again, before finally a full recovery.
Letís hope that this is not what we have to look forward to in the short term. Let us hope that, although the early signs are not overwhelming, we are on the road back to a healthy new period of growth.
Again, Mr. Chairman, I welcome our witnesses today. I appreciate their insight into the current economic situation and look forward to hearing their ideas on what Congress, and, in particular, this Committee should be doing to help the American economy.