Friday’s Headlines: Jobless Rate Holds at 9.7%; Obama Presses for Health Bill
The U.S. unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.7 percent in February, as employers cut a smaller than expected 36,000 jobs, the Labor Department said Friday. The report also revised job loss figures for December and January to show 35,000 fewer jobs lost than previously reported.
The report comes a day after the House passed legislation giving companies that hire unemployed workers a temporary payroll tax break. The $15 billion measure passed 217-201 on a mostly party-line vote.
The unemployment rate hasn’t risen since October, and overall, 14.9 million Americans are unemployed.
We’ll have more on the job numbers on Friday’s program and here on the Rundown.
Aftershocks in Chile
Multiple aftershocks continued to rock Chile, as a 6.0-magnitude tremor shook the city of Concepcion early Friday morning, sending residents out of buildings. Several hours later, reported the Associated Press, an aftershock with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 again hit the city, shaking buildings and sending people back into the streets.
There were no immediate reports of further damage or casualties.
On Thursday, emergency management officials in Chile announced that they had significantly overestimated the death toll from the Saturday quake, lowering the figure from about 805 people to about 279, reported the New York Times.
The director of the emergency management agency told the Times that officials in several badly damaged municipalities had erroneously included names of people who were missing on lists of those who had been killed.
The Los Angeles Times profiles Chilean President-elect Sebastian Pinera, who will take over next week.
“We will not be the government of the earthquake,” said Pinera, who succeeds President Michelle Bachelet. “We will be the government of reconstruction.”
Health Care Reform
The Obama administration continues its push for passage of health care reform legislation.
At an unannounced appearance at a White House meeting between insurance executives and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Thursday, President Barack Obama read a letter from a cancer patient and admonished the executives about what he has called excessive rate increases.
The Washington Post describes the meeting here.
The Obama administration is not alone in stepping up its efforts. “Lobbyists and activist groups launched advertising and grass-roots campaigns to press the two dozen members of Congress who ultimately could cast the swing votes on the controversial issue,” reports the Tribune.
Politico has a look at “ten people who could decide health care reform,” while the New York Times reports that at least one Democrat, Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee, appears to be shifting positions to support the plan.