Remarks to Reporters on Unemployment and the Economy

 

August 7, 1987

 

I know you all think here this morning I'm here to talk about the unemployment rate -- I am, and to make a general point about the economy, as well. Total employment rose in July by 472,000, and to make a general point -- well, and unemployment fell by 36,000. And that means the unemployment rate went down another tenth of a point, to 5.9 percent, breaking for the first time in 8 years the 6 percent mark. And I think it's particularly important to point out that this breakthrough of the 6 percent mark does not occur in a hyperinflated economy as it did in 1979 but is based instead on sound growth and steady, long-term job creation.

 

Now, the below-6-percent figure is remarkable news. I think all of you can recall there were those who said that low rates of unemployment coupled with low rates of inflation were simply unattainable. In addition, this is another record for the total number of people employed in this country, again pointing to a solid start for the economy in the third quarter, all of which goes to the larger point that I want to make today. Yesterday in this room, the Chairman of our Council of Economic Advisers, Beryl Sprinkel, went through with you the economic statistics for this year and the revised numbers for the past 3 years.

 

As Chairman Sprinkel said, these figures indicate that the economy is performing well at 1987 and performed even better than thought during the preceding 3 years. Our trade balance is better. Employment is growing, and unemployment falling. And after a temporary increase earlier this year, inflation is returning to the 4 percent range that we've seen during most of this expansion. All of this is excellent news for the American economy and for the American people.

 

The days of economic stagnation are not a distant memory to the American people. They're vitally aware of the importance of maintaining America's prosperity and never again returning to the days of high inflation, climbing interest rates, growing unemployment, and no growth. And that's why it was the right decision to take to the country the message I have during the past 6 months: that deficit spending, tax increases, and protectionism threaten our hard-won prosperity.

 

I believe this is a message the American people are responding to. I believe they want to check the tendency to overspend and overtax, and I believe that, as they see continued economic growth in the months and years ahead, the American people will support our efforts through the Economic Bill of Rights to institutionalize sound growth and economic reform and to prevent the excesses of big government that jeopardize prosperity.

 

And now, having said that, I'm not going to take any questions, and I'm going to stop interrupting Marlin's news briefing here.

 

Note: The President spoke at 10:02 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House. In his closing remarks, he referred to Marlin Fitzwater, Assistant to the President for Press Relations.