WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama said the economy is "a continuing disaster" for families as he signed executive orders to strengthen unions and put Vice President Joe Biden in charge of a task force on the middle class. "The recession is deepening and the urgency of our economic crisis is growing," Obama said at a White House ceremony Friday, citing Commerce Department figures showing the economy shrank 3.8 percent at an annual pace in the last three months of 2008. The president used the event to prod Congress to continue making progress on economic stimulus legislation. The U.S. Senate is considering a package of tax cuts and spending programs of almost $900 billion after the House earlier this week approved an $819 billion stimulus plan. Obama also demonstrated his support for unions, which backed him in the presidential election. He said he would reverse former President George W. Bush's labour policies by signing three executive orders to enhance the ability of workers to organize. "I do not view the labour movement as part of the problem," Obama said. "It's part of the solution. We need to level the playing field for workers and unions." One order cancels Bush's requirement that federal contractors post notices telling workers they can limit their financial support of unions. Obama also barred federal contractors from being reimbursed for expenses that could be used to dissuade workers from forming a union. A third order requires government contractors to post notices alerting workers of their right to unionize. The president's actions will help strengthen organizing efforts, said Jill Cashen, a spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.