Armed with Bureau of Labor Statistics report that the economy added 290,000 new jobs to the rolls in April, President Obama this morning heralded "the largest monthly increase in four years" and "the largest increase in manufacturing employment since 1998," statistics that he was sure to point out come "on the heels of a report last week that the overall output of our economy, our GDP, is increasing."
Jobs numbers for February and March were revised, he noted, with the economy having created 121,000 more jobs than previously estimated, meaning “we've now seen job growth for four months in a row,” he said.
The White House had clearly made the decision to accentuate the positive. And while the president didn’t entirely eliminate the negative – he pledged to keep working to reduce the unemployment rate – his assessment was decidedly sunny.
The president acknowledged that the unemployment rate increased to 9.9 percent, from 9.7 percent, but he said this was “largely a reflection of the fact that workers who had dropped out of the workforce entirely are now…seeking jobs again, encouraged by better prospects.”
Mr. Obama did not mention another contributing factor to the increase in the unemployment rate: that many Americans whose unemployment benefits are running out are now seeking employment. Nor did he mention that the “U-6” labor underutilization number – assessing those who cannot find full-time employment, or those so discouraged they have stopped looking for work -- increased for the third month in a row, to 17.1%.
Approximately 230,000 of the jobs created in March were in the private sector, the president noted, saying that “there are limits to what the government can do. The true engine of job growth in this country will always be the private sector.”
He said the administration was hard at work to “create the conditions for companies to hire again,” including the series of tax incentives and other steps to promote hiring, tax cuts for hiring unemployed workers, companies being able to write off more of their investments in new equipment, the promotion of additional investments in school renovation, clean energy projects and road construction, and House passage yesterday of a bill to offer rebates to Americans who upgrade the energy efficiencies of their home, the so-called “cash for caulkers” bill.
Moreover, “four million small businesses recently received a postcard in their mailbox telling them that they're eligible for a health care tax cut this year,” he added, pushing Congress to help pass a $30 billion small-business lending fund “which would help increase the flow of credit to small companies that were hit hard by the decline in lending that followed the financial crisis.”
The president took a moment to address “the unusual market activity that took place yesterday on Wall Street,” saying regulatory authorities are evaluating this closely, “with a concern for protecting investors and preventing this from happening again.” Their findings and recommendations will be made public, he said.
Regarding the Greek debt crisis, the president said he spoke this morning with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to re-assert US cooperation with the European Union and International Monetary Fund to help solve the problem.
The president stood in the South Driveway of the White House to make his remarks, flanked by his top economic aides: Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Budget chief Peter Orszag, National Economic Council director Larry Summers, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Christina Romer. He took no questions after he spoke, and walked back to the Oval Office with his arm around Solis, the rest of his team trailing behind him.
-Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller