Bush sees serious signs economy is weakening

President Bush arrives in Hagerstown, Maryland, before departing for the Presidential retreat, Camp David, February 1, 2008. REUTERS/Larry Downing

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush on Friday said there were troubling signs of economic weakening and urged Congress to move on a stimulus package to help prop up the economy, which has been hit by a housing slump and credit crisis.

Bush’s comments mirrored his efforts in his State of the Union address on Monday to calm Americans’ recession fears and came on the heels of a government report earlier on Friday showing U.S. employers cut payrolls for the first time in 4-1/2 years in January.

“There are certainly some troubling signs, serious signs that the economy is weakening and we’ve got to do something about it,” Bush told employees at Hallmark Cards Inc. in Kansas City, Missouri.

“The sooner this package makes it to my desk... the better off our economy is going to be,” he said, referring to a $146 billion stimulus package he hammered out with House leaders but which is now facing slower going in the Senate.

Bush acknowledged concern about a Labor Department report showing 17,000 jobs were cut last month. But a later report showing a modest revival in manufacturing activity took some sting from the job losses. Financial markets were whipsawed by the contrasting signs of strength and strain in the economy.

“The fundamentals are strong,” Bush said. “We’re just in a rough patch, witnessed by the unemployment figures today. I’m confident we can get through this rough patch.”

Even with troubling signs, Bush insisted there are some strong points to the economy and said encouraging businesses to invest is also a key part of the stimulus package.

Writing by Joanne Morrison and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by James Dalgleish