Obama To Offer Plan To Spur Job Growth

As summer comes to an end this weekend, "Recovery Summer" too sputters to an end. The Obama administration's hopes that the spring's jobs growth would continue were not realized. On Friday, the president said he'd be proposing new plans to give the economy a bit more juice.

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President Obama said today that he'll be offering additional ideas to encourage job growth next week. Mr. Obama spoke after the Labor Department reported the unemployment rate inched up in August to 9.6 percent. The sluggish economy is a drag on Democrats who are struggling to keep control of Congress in the November elections, as NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Today's employment report was actually better than expected, but only because expectations had been beaten down so low. The overall jobs number fell, as more temporary Census workers were laid off. But private employers hired more workers than forecast in August, and private sector job numbers for June and July were also revised upward.

President Obama said the job gains reflect the steps his administration has already taken to break the back of the recession, but private employers are still hiring fewer workers now than they were this spring and far fewer than needed to put a dent on the unemployment rate.

President BARACK OBAMA: We are confident that we are moving in the right direction, but we want to keep this recovery moving stronger and accelerate the job growth that's needed so desperately all across the country.

HORSLEY: The president says he'll spell out a broader package of measures to encourage job growth next week. Outgoing White House economic adviser Christina Romer said this week the only surefire ways the government can boost the economy in a short run are to spend more and tax less.

Ms. CHRISTINA ROMER (Chair, White House Council of Economic Advisers): There are lots of ideas on the table. No decisions have been made. We're not talking about a second stimulus. We're talking about additional targeted measures that we think can make an appreciable difference.

HORSLEY: Since winning passage of the stimulus program during his first month in office, Mr. Obama has proposed a number of additional economic measures. Some have made it through Congress, including extended unemployment benefits and emergency aid to states, but others have languished, including a package of tax cuts and lending assistance designed to help small businesses. Mr. Obama made another pitch for that bill today.

Pres. OBAMA: This piece of legislation is good for workers. It's good for small business people. It's good for our economy. And yet, Republicans in the Senate have blocked this bill. A needless delay that has led small business owners across this country to put off hiring, put off expanding and put off plans that will make our economy stronger.

HORSLEY: A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says Democrats are hopeful they can finally pass the small business measure when senators return to work this month. But nothing Congress does now is likely to make a difference to the economy before the November elections.

Political scientist Jack Pitney of Claremont McKenna College says that's ominous for the Democrats.

Mr. JACK PITNEY (Political Scientist, Claremont McKenna College): Whenever you have an unemployment rate approaching double digits, that is very, very bad news for the party in power, particularly, because Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the presidency, so people have a clear idea of whom to blame.

HORSLEY: Pitney notes when Democrats lost control of the House and the Senate in 1994, the unemployment rate was just 6.1 percent, three and a half points lower than it is now.

Mr. PITNEY: The economy is a large part of the mix, and you put together a bad economy with very bad poll numbers and the outlook is very grim for the Democrats.

HORSLEY: Heading into the Labor Day weekend, President Obama said he wants Americans to remind themselves there are better days ahead. Many Congressional Democrats, though, fear their days may be numbered.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

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