The American economy grew at a strong pace of 4.2 percent during the first quarter of 2004 - well above the historical average. Economic growth over the last three quarters has been the fastest in nearly 20 years, at a 5.5 percent annual rate that would double the size of the economy in 13 years. President Bush's Actions Are Helping to Fuel Our Economic Recovery The President's Jobs and Growth tax relief package helped fuel the strong improvement in our economy. It raised the level of economic activity and productivity, which will result in higher incomes and living standards for American workers. Recently released data confirm that the economy is strong and growing stronger. March's increase in employment was the largest in almost four years. 308,000 new jobs were created in March - the largest monthly increase since April 2000 - and 759,000 jobs have been added over the last 7 months. Additionally, there was a cumulative upward revision of 87,000 jobs for the previous two months, showing that more jobs were created in January and February than initially thought. The household survey puts the increase in employment even higher at 978,000 over the last 7 months. The national unemployment rate was 5.7% in March - far below its peak of 6.3% in June 2003, and below the average of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Over the past year, the unemployment rate has fallen in 44 of the 50 states. Initial unemployment claims have remained at levels consistent with strong job growth. American companies are reporting historic levels of growth Productivity grew from 2000 to 2003 at the fastest 3-year rate in more than 50 years. This has bolstered profits and will lead to significantly higher real wages for workers. More manufacturers are reporting increased activity and new orders than at any time in 20 years. The ISM Manufacturing employment index in March was at its highest level since 1987. Household spending continues to be strong. As a result of the President's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, personal consumption levels have risen significantly. Real after-tax incomes are up by 10% since December 2000 - substantially better than those following the last recession. Retail sales other than motor vehicles in the first quarter of 2004 increased 11.6 percent, more than double the average annual rate of growth over the last decade. Consumer confidence is at its highest level in 3 months and is rising. The Conference Board said its index of consumer confidence increased 4.4 points to 92.9 in April, from 88.5 in March. Consumers' expectations about employment are at their highest level in nearly 20 years. Housing construction in March surged to levels near those of December 2003, when they were at their highest levels in almost 20 years. In the first quarter of 2004, the national homeownership rate remained at a record high of 68.6 percent, originally set in the fourth quarter of 2003. Minority homeownership set a new quarterly record of 50.8 percent in the first quarter, up 0.2 percentage points from the fourth quarter and up 1.5 percentage points from the first quarter of 2003. Inflation remains restrained, with the core CPI rising only 1.6 percent and the core finished-goods PPI rising only 0.7 percent over the last 12 months. Mortgage rates remain near historic lows, making homebuying easier and more affordable.