Fred Watkins/AP/ABC News
Austan Goolsbee, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
Not even the White House appears to want to credit the economic stimulus as setting the stage for February's good jobs data. (Earlier, I posted on how Speaker John Boehner credited the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the positive numbers.)
Instead, Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, pointed to the payroll tax cuts and investment tax credits as contributing to the 192,000 net new jobs the economy added in February, which helped to lower the jobless rate for last month to 8.9 percent, its lowest rate since April 2009.
He wrote in a blog post:
Though unemployment remains elevated, we are seeing signs that the initiatives put in place by this Administration – such as the payroll tax cut and business tax credits for investment – are creating the conditions for sustained growth and job creation. The steep decline in the unemployment rate and the overall trend of economic data in recent months has been encouraging, but there is still considerable work to do to replace the jobs lost in the downturn. We will continue to work with Congress to find ways to reduce spending, but not at the expense of derailing progress in the job market, making the investments we need to educate our workers, investing in science, and building the infrastructure our companies need to succeed.
In addition to the increases last month, the estimates of private sector job growth for December (now +167,000) and January (now +68,000) were revised up. Overall payroll employment rose by 192,000 last month. The sectors with the largest payroll employment growth were professional and business services (+47,000), education and health services (+40,000), manufacturing (+33,000), and construction (+33,000). State and local government experienced a large decline (-30,000), and has shed jobs in 14 of the past 16 months.
Those payroll tax cuts and tax credits were part of the December agreement between the Obama White House and Congress, including House Republicans who were then about to take control. The pact extended the Bush tax cuts not just for the middle class but all the income of the superwealthy, too.
Obama opposed extending the tax cuts to couples making more than $250,000 but relented in order to get Republicans to agree to extending unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed.
Still, it's striking that Goolsbee didn't mention the stimulus which the president spent a good part of last year defending and the Congressional Budget Office says was contributing to growth through the end of last year (and presumably the start of this year.)
Maybe this is part of the administration's desire to not "relitigate" the past two years.
The Congressional Republicans, like Boehner on Friday, and presidential candidates are unlikely to stop attacking the Obama administration for the stimulus.
So even if the administration wants to get past the stimulus argument, Republicans likely won't let that happen.