US President Barack Obama pushed for Senate approval of his gigantic stimulus plan on Friday as a grim unemployment report revealed the depths of the US economic tailspin.
The nearly $1 trillion package is Obama's top legislative priority in his early presidency, its urgency highlighted by Friday's report. The package's passage would be a huge relief for the president, who has struggled to win the backing he sought from opposition Republicans.
The Labor Department reported that employers slashed payrolls by 598,000 in January, the most since the end of 1974, catapulting the unemployment rate to 7.6 percent. The rate is the highest since September 1992.
"These numbers, and the very real suffering of American workers they represent, reinforce the need for bold fiscal action," the White House said in a statement.
Democratic and Republican moderates in the Senate were working to scale down the stimulus package in hopes of winning enough votes for passage later Friday. Its passage would cap cap a difficult week in which Obama saw some of his key appointments delayed or derailed because of tax problems.