Local News

Bush Says Hope, Help Ahead For Unemployed N.C. Workers

Posted November 7, 2003 4:36 a.m. EST

— During a visit to North Carolina on Friday, President Bush expressed sympathy for companies in the state battered by foreign competition, including the state's textile industry. But he said the recovering economy and worker-retraining efforts should help the unemployed find jobs.

"People who have lost work should have hope," Bush said Friday in a meeting with students and teachers at a community college that emphasizes vocational retraining. "The economy's growing. New jobs are being created.

"There's a wonderful future ahead for people who may, at this moment, think their days and their future is a little dark."

There was good economic news from Washington:

The Labor Department

said the nation's unemployment rate dropped to 6 percent in October, from 6.1 percent the month before, and payrolls grew by 126,000.

"As the economy changes, as technology changes, the slowest part of the change is the workforce," Bush said on an auditorium stage at Forsyth Technical Community College.

He sat on a stool alongside students, teachers and school officials.

Bush brought no new proposals to a state that has lost a fifth of its manufacturing jobs in the past three years. But he said that his tax cuts, trade policies and various government worker-training proposals should lead the way to better days.

Friday's unemployment figures showed that North Carolina's jobless rate remained above the national average, at 6.4 percent. Only six states were higher.

Since July 2000, the state has lost about 151,000 manufacturing jobs, mostly in its once-mighty textile, furniture and tobacco industries.

Bush also mentioned the economy and trade earlier at a fund-raising luncheon here that raised $1.1 million for his re-election campaign.

About 300 protesters gathered outside to demonstrate against Bush's trade and Iraq policies. And, nearby, the Forsyth County Democratic Party ran a "soup kitchen" to highlight job losses and poverty in North Carolina.

The campaign money could pay for a "lot of lunches for school kids who otherwise may not get another real meal during the day," said Forsyth County Democratic Party chairwoman Berni Gaither.

Bush told the fund-raising luncheon: "I understand that trade is a two-way street, that if we have trade with other neighbors, with other countries, we expect there to be fair trade coming the other way."

On the subject of Iraq, Bush told the luncheon of 550 supporters that a "collection of killers is trying to shake the will of America and the civilized world.

"Saddam holdouts and foreign terrorists are desperately trying to throw that country into chaos," he said. "This country will not be intimidated."

He did not specifically refer to the latest U.S. casualties in what has become the deadliest week for Americans in Iraq since major combat was declared over in May. Six U.S. soldiers were killed Friday, when their Army Black Hawk helicopter crashed, apparently downed by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Earlier, aboard Air Force One, presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush was informed of the latest downed helicopter.

"We are saddened at the loss of any one of our troops who pay the ultimate sacrifice serving their nation in defending freedom," McClellan said.

At the community college, Scott Hiner, an adult student, told Bush that he had been a supervisor at a textile company for 15 years when "I became a displaced worker."

Now he is preparing for a new career in biotechnology, Hiner said. He said a federal trade adjustment program for displaced workers was helping to pay for his retraining.

Hiner thanked the president "for giving us a chance to go back and get another career."

Bush said he was thanking the wrong person.

"You're the person who decided he wanted to do something with his life," Bush said. "And you get the credit."

Democrats have not won North Carolina and its 15 electoral votes since 1976. It is the home state of Democratic Sen. John Edwards, who is seeking his party's nomination to run against Bush next year.