CHICAGO (AP) — President-elect Barack Obama was staying in Chicago for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday Thursday and squeezing in some holiday shopping, a day after trying to reassure Americans about the ailing economy as stores braced for a rough season.

“Help is on the way,” he proclaimed Wednesday at his third news briefing on the economy this week. Fifty-five days away from taking office, he declared he would have an economic plan ready for action “starting day one.”

To help with ideas from outside the White House, Obama also announced he was forming a new team of advisers with former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker as the head.

“There is no doubt that during tough economic times family budgets are going to be pinched,” Obama said. “I think it is important for the American people, though, to have confidence that we’ve gone through recessions before, we’ve gone through difficult times before, that my administration intends to get this economy back on track.”

In a separate television interview, Obama struck a cautionary tone when asked whether the public was expecting too much from him.

“We’ve been able to start giving people some assurance,” he told Barbara Walters in an interview broadcast Wednesday night. “Now when it comes to the economy, we’re not going to get out of the hole that we’re in overnight. … I’m not a miracle worker.”

The crucial holiday shopping season gets underway in earnest on Friday, nearly a month before the Dec. 25 Christmas holiday, with deep discounts already in place as stores try to lure buyers who are worried about losing their jobs and homes.

Volcker, 81, will head the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. The board’s top staff official will be Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist, Obama said.

Volcker is no stranger to economic crises, having led the Fed under two presidents from 1979 to 1987. Volcker is a legendary central banker who raised interest rates and restricted the money supply to tame raging inflation in the 1980s. It was a painful prescription that helped send the economy into one of the nation’s worst recessions.

However, he is largely credited with ushering in nearly three decades of relatively low inflation — an unthinkable feat in the 1970s, when the country was grappling with high unemployment, high interest rates and ever-rising prices.

There was also more bad news on the economy’s current state. The government reported Wednesday that jobless claims had remained at recessionary levels, consumers had cut back on their spending by the largest amount since the 2001 terrorist attacks, orders to U.S. factories had plunged anew and home sales had fallen to the lowest level in nearly 18 years.

As the stock market rallied, fresh government bailout programs this week were given much of the credit. But Obama’s encouraging words seemed to help as well. On Monday, he announced plans for a massive economic stimulus plan that Democrats have said could cost as much as $700 billion.

“People should understand that help is on the way. And as they think about this Thanksgiving shopping weekend, and as they think about the Christmas season that is coming up, I hope that everybody understands that we are going to be able to get through these difficult times,” Obama said. “We’re just going to have to make some good choices.”

Since Obama’s election, law enforcement officials have seen potential threatening writings, racist Internet postings and other troubling activity popping up. But Obama said in his interview with Walters for ABC that he never thinks about his safety.

“Part of it because I’ve got this pretty terrific crew of Secret Service guys that follow me everywhere I go, but also because I have a deep religious faith and faith in people that carries me through the day,” he said. “And my job is just to make sure I’m doing my job, and if I do, I can’t worry about that kind of stuff.”

After his news conference, Obama and his wife took their daughters to work at a food bank. He told reporters that he wants the girls “to learn the importance of how fortunate they are, and to make sure they’re giving back.”

Separately, Obama’s national security spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson, said in the wake of a string of terrorist attacks in India, that Obama “strongly condemns today’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, and his thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the people of India. These coordinated attacks on innocent civilians demonstrate the grave and urgent threat of terrorism.”