Well, I was delighted to learn the exciting news this morning that our unemployment rate has dropped to 6.9 percent, the lowest level in over five years. Three-hundred thirty-two thousand more Americans were working last month, and today employment in the United States stands at an all-time high. And I believe that's not only in the amount of numbers but in the percentage of the overall labor pool.
It's interesting to note that this nation, which believes in lower taxes and free and fair trade, has created more than 8 million jobs now in 33 months. We're seeing the proof that America's economy is packing new power. We can keep our unemployment rate down, we can keep opening up new opportunities for our future if all of us unite in working for an America where government doesn't grow, prosperity does.
In the days ahead, I urge the Congress to join with me with renewed energy in our shared responsibilities to control all unnecessary spending, to work for a freer and fairer trading system and to pass a new tax plan for America, a fair-share tax plan for all.
Now, let me add that we're still discussing the subjects of trade and South Africa. Let me direct your questions on the economy to Beryl Sprinkel chairman, Council of Economic Advisers because I have to be getting back to the office. The schedule was planned before we knew that I would be coming in here.
Q: We thought you were going to announce some trade sanction.
A: No, as I say, those things are still under discussion and, as quickly as we have something to report on those discussions, we will.
Q. What do you intend to do about South Africa?
A. I can't say that it will be today. I doubt that it would be.
Q: Have you changed your mind about sanctions against South Africa? There's some indication that you want to try and head off a bruising battle with Congress on . . . .
A. I said both those subjects, trade and South Africa, we're in consultation now on both of those. And when we can, and I know it won't be too long, we'll be . . . .
Q. Will you do something about foreign credit? You've got to do something on that right away, haven't you?
A. That's what we're meeting on. As I say . . . .
Q. Are you having any second thoughts about your policy of constructive engagement?
A. I think it's the only thing that's shown any signs of improvement in the whole situation as yet.
Q. Do you really believe that all segregation has been eliminated in South Africa? You said that in your radio interview.
A. No, and I didn't intend to say that. I did know that all the people that have been coming back here have been reporting to me on how widespread was this, and I'm sorry that I carelessly gave the impression that I believed that it had been totally eliminated. There are areas where it hasn't.
Q. What do you believe is the case in South Africa regarding people's ability to live, to move about freely, to vote?
A. You'll hear about all of this as soon as we finish these consultations.
Q. Are you still against the sanctions?
A. Beryl is waiting impatiently here to take your questions . . . .
Q: Why do you think you were so misinformed about the state of the situation in South Africa in terms of blacks and whites?
A. I will answer that one question, and then I'm going to walk out of here, and Beryl's going to take over.
Q. Don't you have a lot of briefers?
A. I was not nearly as ill-informed as many of you have it out that I was. I may have been careless in my language in that one thing, but I was talking about improvements that actually do exist there and have been made. But as I say, I know that segregation has not been eliminated totally and in some areas there's been no improvement.
Q. There's no vote there, no participation as citizens.
A. No, no, no. I was talking about the specific things of segregation, of labor and the new things that have taken place with regard to labor and things of that kind.
Q. What about the tax-reform plan in the House Ways and Means Committee? Will you get tax reform this year?
A. All the, you've been hearing me talk about tax reform. You'll hear me some more.
Q. What about Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev? Do you have a reaction to the interview in Time magazine? We haven't heard from you on that yet.
A. I know.
Q. How about a press conference next week?
A. I'll take it up with him in November.
Q. Can you tell us if there's anything new about the Americans missing, still missing in Lebanon?
A. We're working just as hard as we can in every channel that we can about that. It is just a far different situation than the hostages. And the fact that there isn't anything out there everyday as there was on the hostage situation doesn't mean that that is not the most important thing for us, and we are doing everything . . . .
Q. But you see no progress at all in that?
A. We don't know.
Q. How are you feeling? Any aches or pains?
A. No. You all should have seen me. No, I feel fine. As a matter of fact, my biggest problem is with the doctors that are still trying to shorten down the riding time.
Q. When are you going back out to Bethesda naval hospital for the checkups? Do you know?
A. I don't know but pretty soon. I know that's a routine thing that has to be done.