Obama urges "common sense" from Congress on jobs

ARLINGTON, Virginia Fri May 4, 2012 2:59pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses students and parents about the rising costs of education at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia May 4, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses students and parents about the rising costs of education at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia May 4, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

ARLINGTON, Virginia (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Friday he would urge Congress next week to implement "common sense ideas" to accelerate job growth, as he sought to deflect blame toward Republican lawmakers for not doing enough to bring down unemployment.

Obama, in remarks after government data showed the pace of hiring by U.S. businesses slowed in April, acknowledged that too many Americans remained without work.

"That is why next week I am going to urge Congress, as they start getting back to work, to take some actions on some common sense ideas right now that can accelerate even more job growth," he said at a school in northern Virginia, a state viewed as a key battleground in the November 6 presidential election.

The economy will be a dominant factor as voters weigh whether to grant Obama a second White House term, and he took the opportunity to remind Americans that congressional gridlock on legislation that might lift growth was hampering progress.

Members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives return to Washington from recess to begin negotiating a compromise next week on a long-term highway transportation bill, which Obama's Democrats have framed as a job-creating measure.

The legislation would help fund major construction works, such as road, bridge and mass transit projects.

The Senate will also debate a bill to prevent interest rates doubling on student loans on July 1, which Obama said was an imperative in his remarks on Friday to high school students, teachers and parents.

"We'd welcome a focus on jobs from the president, but after 39 months of unemployment above 8 percent its clear he doesn't have many good solutions," said Brendan Buck, spokesman for House speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress.

Government data showed U.S. businesses slowed their pace of hiring in April to 115,000 new jobs, compared with forecasts for 170,000. Unemployment edged down a tenth of a percentage point to 8.1 percent, but this was partly because of the number of discouraged workers who left the labor force last month.

"There is still a lot of folks out of work, which means we've got to do more," Obama said.

(Reporting by Alister Bull and Richard Cowan; editing by Vicki Allen and Mohammad Zargham)

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