WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama pledged on Saturday to do all he could do reignite U.S. job growth as he defended his handling of the economy amid Republican attacks.
With the U.S. unemployment rate at 10 percent and economic anxiety growing, Obama’s job approval ratings have slipped below 50 percent.
Some Americans have questioned his decision to push a hefty domestic agenda including a huge overhaul of the healthcare system after taking office in January in the midst of the worst recession since the 1930s Great Depression.
Republicans have taken aim at his $787 billion economic stimulus, saying it failed to create jobs as Obama promised and exacerbated the soaring U.S. budget deficit.
But in his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama noted that job losses have diminished substantially since the depths of the recession when the economy was hemorrhaging jobs a rate of 700,000 a month.
“It is true that we, as a country, are in a very different place than we were when 2009 began,” Obama said, saying there was evidence of a “positive trend” in the November employment report released on Friday.
The report showed that the U.S. unemployment rate dipped last month to 10 percent from 10.2 percent. The pace of job losses slowed in November to 11,000 from 111,000 in October.
While welcoming the hints of improvement, Obama said he recognized that for millions who have lost their jobs, it “isn’t good enough.”
“The folks who have been looking for work without any luck for months and, in some cases, years, can’t wait any longer,” he said. “For them, I’m determined to do everything I can to accelerate our progress so we’re actually adding jobs again.”
Obama plans a speech on Tuesday at the Brookings Institution where he plans to outline a set of proposals to spur job growth.
Among the steps under consideration are tax incentives to homeowners to improve the energy efficiency of their houses, pushing banks to make more loans to small businesses and tax cuts to encourage companies to hire new workers.
Obama’s fellow Democrats expect the economy to be the top issue in next year’s congressional elections and acknowledge that unless it improves, their own jobs may be at stake.
While facing pressure to boost the economy, Obama also must contend with a skyrocketing budget deficit, which hit $1.4 trillion in the recently ended 2009 fiscal year. His administration is reluctant to consider massive new measures that would significantly add to the public debt.
Reporting by Caren Bohan; Editing by Sandra Maler