WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama assured Americans on Monday that boosting jobs was a top priority, but gave no specifics about how to meet this goal that some economists say warrants more government spending.
The White House said separately that all “sensible and reasonable measures” would be considered to encourage employment, but also stressed that it must be balanced with the need for the United States to tackle record budget deficits.
“Our economy is growing again for the first time in more than a year,” Obama told reporters after a meeting with his Cabinet. “We cannot be sit back and be satisfied given the extraordinarily high unemployment levels that we have seen.”
U.S. unemployment is at a 26-year high of 10.2 percent and may get worse before it improves, despite the economy’s swing back to positive growth in the third quarter of 2009.
“This has been a very difficult year, and a lot of people out there are having a very, very tough time,” Obama said, after instructing his Cabinet to relax a little bit this week over the Thanksgiving holiday, and then buckle down to work.
Obama, whose once-lofty public approval ratings have been hurt by the economy and high jobless numbers since he took office in January, has convened a jobs forum on December 3 to review other measures to boost payrolls.
He said the forum would focus on how to lift U.S. exports and infrastructure spending and create green jobs.
Obama has also said he is interested in solutions that would not cost much public money, warning that adding to the U.S. debt could trigger a double-dip recession.
Others think the government should do more spending on top of a $787 billion emergency stimulus package that Obama signed in February, although much of that money is still in the process of being spent.
The AFL-CIO labor federation has urged that he consider extending unemployment insurance again. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times on Monday that the biggest risk was the government doing too little to stimulate growth, not too much.
Noting that many U.S. businesses were now making good profits, Obama said that reflected cost-cutting rather than wider demand in the economy, generating surging U.S. productivity that has not yet led to hiring.
“All these present some significant challenges in terms of us creating more jobs in this economy,” Obama said, adding that job creation normally lagged economic growth and that the aim of the jobs forum would be to bridge that gap.
“We don’t want to wait. We want to see if we can accelerate it,” he said.
Editing by Peter Cooney