WASHINGTON -- President-elect Barack Obama called the latest U.S. job losses on Friday "a stark reminder of how urgently action is needed" to revive the nation's staggering economy. He said he was open to fresh ideas from Congress.
"Just show me. If you can show me that something is going to work, I will welcome it. If it works better than something I've proposed, I'll welcome it," Obama told a news conference.
He spoke shortly after the Labor Department reported job losses of 524,000 in December and a 7.2 percent unemployment rate, the highest in 16 years.
He said the jobs report made quick action by Congress even more imperative.
"What we can't do is drag this out when we just saw a half a million more job losses," Obama said.
He noted that jobs were lost in all 12 months of 2008, and he called it "the single worst year of job losses since World War II."
"Today's jobs report only underscores the need to move with a sense of urgency and common purpose," said Obama.
He urged Congress to give its quick attention to his still-evolving economic stimulus plan, designed to create or save 3 million jobs at a cost of about $800 billion.
"This morning we received a stark reminder of how urgently action is needed," Obama said, opening a news conference to formally announce his intelligence team choices.
In a message directed at Congress, Obama said, "For the sake of our economy and our people, this is the time to act without delay."
Congressional leaders have said they will finish work on Obama's economic recovery plan by mid-February, though outlines of the proposal are already drawing some criticism, even among the president-elect's fellow Democrats.
Some top Democrats, including Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota are complaining openly, contending that many of the incoming administration's proposed tax cuts won't work. Obama's plan would earmark about 40 percent of the total, or $300 billion, for tax cuts for middle- and low-income Americans.
Meanwhile, Republicans want more tax cuts and have warned against excessive new spending. Both parties have signaled that they intend to place their own stamps on the economic recovery effort.
Asked if winning support from Congress for his ideas was harder than he had expected, Obama said, "You're assuming that I was expecting it to be easy. No."
He said he was open to working with both Democrats and Republicans.
"We welcome good ideas," he said. "I want this to work."
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