Weak Jobs Report Puts New Pressure On Obama The Obama administration has been struggling to reduce unemployment for the last two years. They're still working on it — and disappointing economic data makes the effort even more urgent.
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Weak Jobs Report Puts New Pressure On Obama

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Weak Jobs Report Puts New Pressure On Obama

Weak Jobs Report Puts New Pressure On Obama

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Job growth is slowing and President Obama's poll numbers are slipping, so the White House is trying to stage an intervention. All week long, the administration took pains to show that the economy remains the President's top concern and he's doing everything possible to try to bring it back.

NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

ARI SHAPIRO: One morning this week, the White House gave the press corps about 10 minutes' warning that members of the cabinet would be coming out to speak on the White House driveway. Only three reporters made it in time.

(Soundbite of beeping)

SHAPIRO: Construction rumbled in the background as four senior officials stepped up to the microphones. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack described the new council to help Americans living in rural communities.

Secretary TOM VILSACK (Department of Agriculture): What they want to see more of are empty storefronts filled with jobs. So, this is a council that's going to focus on figuring out ways to provide more investment in rural America so that we can create jobs and economic growth.

SHAPIRO: If you missed the subtext there, President Obama was even blunter at a news conference on Tuesday.

President BARACK OBAMA: As long as there are some folks out there who are unemployed looking for work, then every morning when I wake up I'm going to be thinking about how I can get them back to work.

SHAPIRO: The White House is playing an inside game and an outside game on the economy. The inside game is about policies, things that might actually address the problem. The outside game is about communications, convincing the American people that this president is doing everything he can to fix the problem.

At that Tuesday news conference, the president pushed the outside game hard. And he gave a glimpse of the inside game too.

Pres. OBAMA: One of the things that I'm going to be interested in exploring with the members of both parties in Congress is how do we continue some of these policies to get this economy up and running in a robust way.

SHAPIRO: This is a question the White House has asked from day one: what else can we do? From the recovery act to tax cuts to research and development tax credits, this president has pushed a litany of programs in an effort to bring back the economy. And month by month, things were incrementally getting better.

This White House never misses an opportunity to say that two million new jobs have been created since this president took office. But then came the latest jobs report.

Unidentified Man: There's just not enough work out there. The latest unemployment numbers show an economy stuck in first gear.

SHAPIRO: The inside game on policy seems to be faltering. And the outside game on communications followed. A Washington Post-ABC News poll showed more Americans than ever disapprove of president Obama's handling the economy. For Republicans, it's is evidence that Democrats have taken the wrong approach from day one.

Mr. REINCE PRIEBUS (Chairman, Republican National Committee): We are facing a cliff that this president is taking us off of.

SHAPIRO: Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus spoke at a Bloomberg breakfast on Wednesday.

Mr. PRIEBUS: I don't know if throwing more money at the problem is going to solve anything. We need a president that actually focuses in on creating jobs as opposed to it harder, and unfortunately on his watch things have gotten much worse.

Mr. MARK WEISBROT (Co-Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research): Clearly, there are republicans who have an interest in having a weak economy for the next election. It will certainly help them.

SHAPIRO: Liberal economist Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research thinks this White House deserves blame for doing too little spending.

Mr. WEISBROT: There's not much disagreement among economists that the stimulus did save some jobs. The problem is that we lost a lot more than that. So, the main problem with the stimulus from an economic policy point of view is that it just wasn't large enough.

SHAPIRO: In the view of these economists, the kind of budget cuts being negotiated right now as a price for raising the debt ceiling could cause still more jobs to be lost. And that would be one more headache for the president, even as he tries to focus on the nearly 14 million Americans still looking for a job.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, the White House.

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