- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 3, 2009

President Obama on Tuesday said that despite an onslaught of bad economic news in recent weeks and months, there is more pain to come in the days ahead.

“The economy’s performance in the last quarter of 2008 was the worst in over 25 years. And frankly, the first quarter of this year holds out little promise for better returns,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama made his comments during a visit to the Department of Transportation, where he heralded the results of the $787 billion stimulus package passed by Congress last month.

The $28 billion in transportation funding will create or save 150,000 jobs by the end of 2010, he said. The Department of Transportation had a slightly different number for how much would be spent on infrastructure, saying it was $26.6 billion.

“There cannot be a sustained recovery unless and until we put Americans back to work,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama, who is meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Tuesday, also talked briefly about the need to jump-start lending and mentioned a consumer and business lending initiative that he said will initiate up to $1 trillion in new lending for American consumers.

The president’s brief speech also served as a something of a pep talk for the several hundred department employees in the audience. Mr. Obama said he wanted them to be “inspired” about their work in disbursing money to road projects.

“Our economic challenge is clear, and now it is up to us to meet it,” he said.

The Obama administration has said that the stimulus will create or save 3.5 million jobs over the next two years, though it also has projected job losses of up to 5 million if no action is taken.

Mr. Obama said that transportation-related jobs “are good jobs that pay more than average.” The White House said that the median wage for construction-related jobs in 2007 was $18.31, which was $3 above the economy-wide average.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that the first road project using stimulus funds was starting as he spoke, as crews from a private company worked to repair Route 650 in Maryland. He said the project was sustaining 60 jobs.

“This is the first step in rebuilding America,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said.

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