(Reuters) - President Barack Obama is convening a high-level conference on December 3 to brainstorm how to get more Americans back to work after U.S. unemployment hit a generation high of 10.2 percent, pulling down his lofty approval ratings.
Ideas likely to surface include extending unemployment insurance and financial aid to cash-strapped states, although the White House says attendees from business, labor, finance and the nonprofit world will specifically focus on six topics:
* Boosting U.S. exports. Obama said during a recent trip to Asia that a one percent increase in the United States’ share of exports to the region would create 250,000 new U.S. jobs. He also wants to know what the United States could learn from export-giant Germany on this score.
* Encouraging firms to accelerate hiring as demand picks up. Obama has said using the tax code to aid job creation may have merit, and some advocate a payroll tax credit for every new job created. Critics warn it will be hard to distinguish between firms who would have hired more staff anyway, and those specifically motivated by the tax credit to boost payroll.
* Fresh steps to help small businesses get access to credit. The AFL-CIO labor federation suggests diverting money not spent under a $700 billion bank bailout, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, to help small businesses obtain loans. The administration has also said that it would like to finds ways to point TARP toward smaller community banks, who are the traditionally lenders to small businesses.
* Ideas to create so-called green, or energy efficient, jobs by encouraging energy efficiency and renewable technology investment.
* Infrastructure investment.
* Retrain workers in industries that have stopped growing to prepare them for more promising fields of commerce.
Ideas also likely to be aired during the conference:
* Extend unemployment insurance again. Republican President George W. Bush and Democrat Obama have both extended jobless benefits, most recently when Obama signed a bill on November 6 to give aid for as much as 20 more weeks for Americans whose benefits were otherwise about to expire. With 15.7 million people out of work, it may be very hard politically for Obama to oppose an extension despite the cost.
* Aid for state and local governments. States face a $144 billion budget shortfall in fiscal 2010, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, after the worst U.S. recession in 70 years hit revenues. Because of rules requiring all states except Vermont to balance their budgets, this hole will mean heavy cuts in services and the layoff of public workers like teachers and firemen unless other money is found. One way Washington could help would be increasing the federal match for states’ Medicaid payments.
Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Jackie Frank
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