* Obama says cannot 'wait and see' for jobs
* Says US resources limited, ideas must be responsible
* Government seeks private sector aid
(Recasts with Obama comments in closing session)
By Alister Bull
WASHINGTON, Dec 3 President Barack Obama on
Thursday urged corporate America to help tackle the nation's
highest unemployment in 26 years but also hinted at federal tax
credits and aid to states to ease jobless woes.
"We cannot hang back and hope for the best when we've see
the kinds of job losses that we've seen over the last year,"
Obama told business and labor leaders invited to the White
House to brainstorm how to speed employment creation.
Obama hosted a jobs forum after U.S. unemployment hit a
26-year high of 10.2 percent in October, chipping away at his
popularity and potentially shaping his political future.
"Despite the progress we've made, many businesses are still
skittish about hiring," he said, acknowledging that although
growth has resumed, the labor market is lagging behind.
November's unemployment report is due on Friday and a
Reuters poll of analysts expect the rate to show no change.
The numbers will provide a sobering backdrop for Obama as
he travels to Allentown, Pennsylvania, to take his message into
the U.S. heartland, capping a crucial week for the president
who also announced a major escalation in the Afghan war.
Economic anxiety as the country struggles out of the worst
recession in 70 years could thwart prospects for his Democratic
Party in November congressional elections, and dim Obama's own
prospects for a second term in office. Recent opinion polls
show his approval ratings are down as the economy weighs and
critics dismissed his White House forum as largely a public
Obama wants measures that will not add to the country's
record budget deficit, effectively ruling out significantly
more public spending on top of a $787 billion stimulus package
that he signed in February.
But he said tax credits to encourage hiring -- an option
popular with liberal economists that would not be free for the
public purse -- was "an idea I think is worthy of further
He also sounded open to providing additional aid to
cash-strapped states to help them avoid laying off public
workers like teachers and firefighters in order to balance
their budgets, as most are required to do by law.
"As tough as this financial crisis and recession has been
on the federal budget, it has in some cases been worse on state
and local budgets," Obama told the forum's closing session.
He reiterated that he would only consider responsible ideas
that took account of the country's limited resources, and
stressed the government could only do so much for the economy.
"We don't have enough public dollars to fill the hole of
private dollars that was created as a consequence of the
crisis," he said, referring to the financial market meltdown
last year that significantly intensified the recession.
(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Caren Bohan,
Patricia Zengerle, Jeff Mason, Doug Palmer, John Poirier and
Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Bill Trott)
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