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9 Feb, 2009 06:14

Obama warns of economic catastrophe

Barack Obama is struggling to win the support of a divided Congress for his economic recovery package. He says if lawmakers fail to approve the plan, America will plummet into economic catastrophe.

Madison Avenue is a shopping strip of brand names and astronomical price tags – the crème-de-la-crème of luxury.

But fewer and fewer people now walk down this exclusive street.

“It’s not that I don't have money. It’s just because you don't know what's going to happen next month and the following month,” a passer-by says.

Not everybody shares this view.

But for the majority, it’s not a pretty picture.

Nearly 600,000 US jobs were shed in January. That’s the biggest monthly loss since the US recession began.

Since December 2007, 3.6 million workers have lost work, and with spending in freefall, trend forecaster Gerald Celente says the worst of the economic crisis is yet to come.

“You look at not only the people that work at these places that no longer have jobs, but how about all of the support industries, the advertising, the manufactures of products that are going to be laying off people as well. We’re going to see Great Depression numbers,” Celente says.

The US Labor Department says America’s unemployment rate is 7.6 per cent – the highest level in more than 16 years.

But Celente says the true figure is far scarier than what's being disclosed.

“When they measure up unemployment, they don't add in the people who are no longer looking for jobs because they've become discouraged and can't find any after looking so long. And they don't include part time workers,” Celente says.

According to the McKinsey global institute, the real US unemployment rate is above 16 per cent, much closer to Great Depression figures.

US president Barack Obama admitted on Thursday of an economic catastrophe on the horizon.

“The time for talk is over. The time for action is now because we know that if we do not act, a bad situation will become dramatically worse. Crisis could turn into a catastrophe for families and businesses across the country,” Obama said.