Robust Job Growth Not Expected This Year

Three of President Obama's leading economic advisers were on Capitol Hill to answer questions about a variety of economic issues Tuesday. They warned that U.S. companies are unlikely to hire enough workers to bring down the unemployed rate much this year. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Oh) accused the administration of not taking the unemployment problem seriously enough.

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Top members of President Obama's economic team delivered some unwelcome news to Congress yesterday. They said U.S. companies are unlikely to hire enough workers to bring down the unemployment rate much this year.

NPR's John Ydstie has more on the lawmaker's response.

JOHN YDSTIE: The Obama team - which included Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Christina Romer, head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers - went before the Appropriations Committee to explain the president's budget. They credit the stimulus package with saving jobs and helping return the economy to growth. But Romer also repeated the administration's forecast of sluggish employment growth this year.

She said while job growth was expected to resume this spring, its unlikely to average more than about 100,000 new jobs a month. And she added this caveat.

Ms. CHRISTINA ROMER (Chief Economist, White House Council of Economic Advisers): It typically takes employment growth of somewhat over 100,000 per month to actually bring the unemployment rate down. Because we do not expect particularly robust job growth over the remainder of this year, we do not expect to see substantial further declines in unemployment this year.

YDSTIE: That means Democrats face the prospect of going into the November election with an unemployment rate close to the current level of 9.7 percent, and with more than 15 million people still unemployed or underemployed.

While some Democrats praise the administration's effort to create jobs, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio was not among them. The unemployment rate in her state is close 11 percent.

Representative MARCY KAPTUR (Democrat, Ohio): I find your testimony dismaying and out of touch.

YDSTIE: Kaptur accused the administration of a lack of urgency in addressing the jobs problem.

Rep. KAPTUR: In Ohio, unemployment is going up. Our food bank lines are growing longer. People are becoming desperate. I am their representative. I cannot politely sit and listen to this and not feel compassion for them, and expecting some from you.

YDSTIE: Kaptur went on to point out that one in every 10 Americans is now in foreclosure or three months behind on their mortgages. She said the administration's foreclosure prevention programs aren't effective.

Treasury Secretary Geithner had this response.

Secretary TIMOTHY GEITHNER (Treasury Department): This president acted with enormous care and force and speed some of you had never in this country or any other country around the world facing a crisis like this.

YDSTIE: Geithner acknowledged that housing remains a terrible crisis for many Americans, but he said that the administration's foreclosure prevention programs are now benefiting more than a million households.

Sec. GEITHNER: We're going to do better than that. I agree, the banks are not doing good enough.

Rep. KAPTUR: It is pitiful. It's an embarrassment to the nation.

Sec. GEITHNER: It's a million Americans, and it's going to get better.

YDSTIE: Republicans were critical, too. Jack Kingston of Georgia told the Obama team that their job creation programs aren't working.

Representative JACK KINGSTON (Republican, Georgia): I would suggest to you that more people have experienced Elvis sightings than have seen jobs created by the stimulus program. And if you guys think it's working, I'd suggest you go out to the Main Street America and talk to the people.

YDSTIE: The White House has asked Congress for additional job creation initiatives. Both the House and Senate have passed programs, but they need to be reconciled before they can be signed into law by the president. It's not clear theyll do much to improve the employment situation in time to help the Democrats in November.

John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington.

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