Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. Wall Street was dealt a setback this week when a key government report revealed the fragile economic recovery is yet to be seen on Main Street.
According to the Labor Department, U.S. employers slashed 85,000 jobs from their payrolls in December. The decline was small enough to hold the nation's unemployment rate steady at 10 percent, but analysts expected monthly job losses to be less than 10 percent of the actual tally.
Wall Street opened lower on the news, but the broader indices managed to claw their way back into positive territory by the end of the session Friday.
Earlier in the week, the government reported orders to U.S. factories rose 1.1 percent in November as strong demand for everything from steel, industrial machinery and computers offset weakness in automobile and truck sales.
The White House cited Friday's jobless report as the President began to push for another $5 billion to help create much-needed jobs in green energy and manufacturing. The Obama Administration also worked on damage control in the agricultural sector this week after the government of Taiwan announced a ban on imports of some U.S. beef products over concerns about mad cow disease.
Taiwan has restricted U.S. beef imports for several years. Long-running negotiations between the two sides to drop a partial ban on certain beef products concluded last October. Congressional representatives from beef-producing states have been pressing Taiwan for some time to allow all U.S. beef to enter the island. But earlier this week, the Legislative Yuan resumed the ban when protestors took to the streets over concerns about the safety of U.S. beef. The ban includes meat products like ground beef and beef offals.
USDA officials and U.S. beef producers have long argued U.S. beef is safe. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and USDA released a joint statement this week, expressing their disappointment stating, "The measures do not have a basis in science and constitute a unilateral violation of the bilateral agreement concluded in good faith by the United States with Taiwan a little over two months ago."
U.S. experts on Taiwan issues are concerned the recent move could hamper progress in bilateral economic and trade relations -- including the signing of a free trade agreement.
According to the United States Meat Export Federation -- the marketing arm for U.S. red meat funded by USDA -- the import of boneless and bone-in beef muscle cuts from animals under 30 months of age will continue.
According to USDA statistics, Taiwan purchased $128 million worth of beef products from the United States in 2008 making it the sixth largest market for U.S. beef.