While Old Man Winter kept consumers inside last month job seekers were undaunted by the inclement weather.
According to the Labor Department, the unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent in February. Though higher than January’s 6.6 percent the news is encouraging because more people were looking for work.
The number of jobs created last month hit 175,000 -- up 12 percent from January.
However, the harsh winter weather did keep more employed Americans on part time status as factories reduced hours or closed. The cutback was the largest since the Labor Department began keeping records 36 years ago.
Crude oil prices rose to over $103 per barrel at the beginning of the week as tensions between Russia and Ukraine increased. By the end of the week, prices moderated as the former Soviet-era giant pulled troops from the border and the Energy Department reported higher domestic crude supplies.
All the news pushed Wall Street higher as the Dow Jones Industrial Average brushed record territory and the S&P 500 finished the week with an all-time high.
Despite a world-wide focus on events in Ukraine, the Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives made an unprecedented 50th attempt to overturn the Affordable Care Act - also known as Obamacare. The measure delaying the controversial health care plan passed on a vote of 250-160. The legislation stands no chance of passage in the Democratic-led Senate and the White House has threatened a veto.
As Administration officials swat away another piece of House fly legislation the White House released its version of the 2015 Federal Budget. Republicans have dismissed the new multi-trillion dollar plan as nothing more than an election cycle Democratic Manifesto. They argue that retiring baby boomers and ever-rising health care costs will run the federal debt to unsustainable levels
President Obama – “It’s a road map for creating jobs with good wages and expanding opportunities for all Americans.”
President Obama sent Congress a $3.9 trillion budget blueprint Tuesday that calls for increased spending to boost economic growth. The more than 1,400 page proposal also aims to tame the national debt by raising taxes on the rich, squeezing payments to health-care providers and overhauling immigration laws.
The budget includes new spending for expanded preschool education, job training and public works. And, it increases the earned income tax credit for low wage workers while separately adding more than $1 trillion in higher taxes over the next decade.
President Obama – “This budget gives millions more workers the opportunity to take advantage of the tax credit and it pays for it by closing loopholes like the ones that let wealthy individuals classify themselves as a small business to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.”
Republicans immediately rejected the proposal saying the red ink, spending hikes and tax increases mean the plan is dead on arrival.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R - Kenucky – “The President has once again opted for the political stunt for a budget that’s more about firing up the base in an election year than about solving the nation’s biggest and most persistent long term challenges.”
The recently-enacted five-year farm bill was not spared from the Administration’s pen. Proposed cuts went beyond already adopted subsidy cutbacks by looking to scale back crop insurance.
The 2015 budget proposes around a 15 percent cut in the $9 billion-a-year program, which partially subsidizes both the companies that sell crop insurance and farmer premiums. There will be little support for that reform in Congress, however, where funding for crop insurance has been a priority.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R - Iowa – “I think this budget is based upon a philosophy that you can tax, spend and borrow and regulate your way to prosperity.”
The Obama administration also proposed doubling dollars for broadband access to the neediest, most rural communities. And, the FDA, which oversees most foods, would get a boost of $24 million to put a new food safety law in place.
When adding in the cost for food assistance, which makes up the bulk of USDA’s budget, the proposed allocation is 8 percent lower than last year.
Overall, the government would still be left with a nearly $19 trillion deficit despite a proposed savings of $5.3 trillion over the next decade.
Congressman Paul Ryan, the House Budget Chair, is expected to release a Republican version of the spending proposal in the coming weeks.