Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. A sizable drop in the U.S. unemployment rate sparked a significant rally in the stock market Friday.
According to the Labor Department U.S. employers added a net 216,000 new positions to their payrolls last month. That's the fastest pace of job expansion since 2006.
The new hiring offset layoffs in local governments and pushed the overall unemployment rate to a two-year low of 8.8 percent.
Wall Street economists had expected the rate to remain closer to 9 percent and the Dow rallied 58 points on the news Friday and flirted with a 52-week high.
The labor market typically lags well behind other barometers in economic recoveries. So Friday's report boosted hopes that the jobless-portion of the rebound is nearing an end and the outlook for job expansion is improving.
But higher energy costs threaten to slow the fragile recovery. Crude oil prices soared to a two-and-a-half year high this week, prompting President Obama -- like so many of his predecessors -- to call for a shift in U.S. energy policy.
President Barack Obama: "I talked about reducing America's dependence on oil when I was running for President, and I'm proud of the historic progress that we've made over the last two years towards that goal, and we'll talk about that a little bit. But I've got to be honest. We've run into the same political gridlock, the same inertia that has held us back for decades. That has to change."
Speaking at Georgetown University this week, President Obama exhibited frustration regarding the lack of comprehensive energy legislation on Capitol Hill. Referencing the long history of Presidents dating back to Richard Milhouse Nixon, who swore America would rid itself of foreign oil, Obama outlined what he calls a "blueprint for a secure energy future." According to the president, domestic natural gas exploration as well as biofuels will play a significant role.
President Barack Obama: "Half of Brazil's vehicles can run on biofuels -- half of their fleet of automobiles can run on biofuels instead of petroleum. Just last week, our Air Force -- our own Air Force -- used an advanced biofuel blend to fly a Raptor 22 -- an F-22 Raptor faster than the speed of sound. Think about that. I mean, if an F-22 Raptor can fly at the speed of -- faster than the speed of sound on biomass, then I know the old beater that you've got, that you're driving around in can probably do so, too. There's no reason why we can't have our cars do the same."
Obama focused heavily on streamlining the distribution of next generation biofuels and imposing federal mandates for higher fuel efficiency in cars and trucks. A strong defender of tax breaks for biofuels as a U.S. Senator, and now president, Obama hinted that change could be on the horizon regarding tax incentives for the ethanol industry.
President Barack Obama: "Over the next two years, we'll help entrepreneurs break ground for four next-generation biorefineries -– each with a capacity of more than 20 million gallons per year. And going forward, we should look for ways to reform biofuels incentives to make sure that they're meeting today's challenges and that they're also saving taxpayers money."
Critics of the Administration accused the president of avoiding the opportunity to drill over massive oil reserves within the United States. But the president refuted the insinuation that America's energy future will rely on expanded oil operations.
President Barack Obama: "America holds about 2 percent of the world's proven oil reserves. What that means is, is that even if we drilled every drop of oil out of every single one of the reserves that we possess -- offshore and onshore -- it still wouldn't be enough to meet our long-term needs. We consume about 25 percent of the world's oil. We only have 2 percent of the reserves. Even if we doubled U.S. oil production, we're still really short."