Obama urges companies to hire, studies housing moves

WASHINGTON Thu May 12, 2011 10:17am EDT

President Barack Obama during a break in taping in a CBS news town hall meeting on the economy with co-anchors Harry Smith and Erica Hill at the Newseum in Washington, May 11, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed

President Barack Obama during a break in taping in a CBS news town hall meeting on the economy with co-anchors Harry Smith and Erica Hill at the Newseum in Washington, May 11, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama urged businesses to "step up" and hire workers, pressing banks and other corporations to do more to help an economy that he said would take "several years" to recover fully.

In a town-hall style meeting conducted by CBS News on Wednesday, Obama said the weak housing market and high gasoline prices were the biggest "headwinds" dragging on the economy.

"We've got a lot more work to do to get businesses to invest and to hire," he told the audience in remarks broadcast on Thursday.

"It's going to take us several years for us to get back where we need to be."

The strength of the U.S. economy is likely to be the main factor that determines whether Obama will succeed in holding on to the White House next year.

He said businesses and banks that reaped the rewards of extraordinary measures to pull the country out of a deep recession had a responsibility now to invest hordes of cash into U.S. jobs.

"It is time for companies to step up," Obama said. "American taxpayers contributed to that process of stabilizing the economy. Companies have benefited from that, and they're making a lot of money, and now's the time for them to start betting on American workers and American products."

U.S. companies created jobs at the fastest pace in five years in April, according to the Labor Department, pointing to underlying strength in the economy even as the jobless rate hit 9.0 percent.

Obama said his administration was looking at ways to extend programs to help people struggling with mortgage payments on houses that had lost much of their value.

"We're going to continue to work with Congress to see if we can propose more legislation to encourage longer loan modifications," he said. "We are trying to expand the loan modification program to reach more people."


Obama said the White House studied oil price movements every day and some increase in fuel prices was inevitable because the economy had improved, boosting demand for energy.

"When the economy started growing again, worldwide demand for oil went back up," he said, noting that disruptions in the Middle East, especially Libya, had affected oil prices.

But he said his administration hoped to see gasoline prices down significantly by the summer and was working to crack down on speculation and price gouging.

"As oil prices on the world markets go down, we want to make sure that's reflected in the pump," he said.

Obama pressed his case that his administration's work to improve the economy had paid dividends, saying the manufacturing sector was especially strong in part because of his decision to rescue the auto industry.

In response to concerns from small businesses about needless regulation, Obama indicated his administration would announce changes in the coming weeks in regulations to ease the burden of excessive paperwork.

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Comments (25)
PHenry13 wrote:
They are hiring, just not in this country. Obama has proven himself to be as much of a corporate lapdog as the Republicans. They encourage companies to outsource to third world countries as well as import cheap labor through the H-1B visa program and then act mystified that there are no jobs for Americans.

May 12, 2011 8:25am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Sure Barry – all you have to do is ask these businesses to hire more people. Why didn’t you think of this back in 2008?

Do you really think the businessmen and women who are sitting on the sidelines right now are so stupid that they will hire more people just to save your campaign? The more you speak, the more obvious it is that you know nothing about business. These are the same people you have been demeaning for that last two years, the same people you have in the cross-hairs of your proposed tax increases. You are really more stupid than we give you credit for.

May 12, 2011 8:34am EDT  --  Report as abuse
dear mr. president,
thank you for your kind thoughts but at this time, we’ll have to pass on your offer to step up. You see, you’ve created a very ominous environment for me and my company. Your incessant refrain demonizing me, threats of tax increases, and planned over taxation has forced me to reconsider our business plans.
Having come off of a pretty good year despite the economy, our company had a nest egg which we would have liked to use for expansion and hiring. However, once we watched approximately 60% of it disappear paying taxes and estimated taxes, we realized that this is just too unstable of an economy to proceed as planned.
My new plan has just been implemented.
We’ve laid off 20% of our workforce and moving our business offshore.
You see, mr. president, despite your claims to the contrary, we producers already pay more than “our fair share” and I’m going to do what is necessary to protect myself, my family, my business, and what’s left of my employees. You’re clueless when it comes to business and certainly know nothing about what it will take for us to start hiring again. We’re just not going to expand and leave ourselves vulnerable while there’s a loose cannon in the white house.

May 12, 2011 9:19am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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