Obama's walking a thin line on jobs front

April 5, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration took credit yesterday for reversing the economic downturn, as recent federal data showed the country had stopped hemorrhaging jobs even though the unemployment rate held steady at a miserable 9.7 percent.

“Now the process of job creation has started, we expect it will accelerate,” said Lawrence Summers, director of the president’s National Economic Council. “But to get back to the surface, we’ve got a long way to go.”

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was less cautious, saying the odds of a faltering US economy have “fallen very significantly.”

“There is a momentum building up which is really just beginning,” Greenspan said on ABC’s “This Week” program. He said the US is “on the edge of a significant buildup” in inventories “and that is a self-reinforcing cycle.”

Summers appeared on “This Week” and CNN’s “State of the Union” to tout the turnaround while simultaneously trying to keep expectations low for a full recovery this year. He stressed that job creation remains “the president’s top economic priority,” countering criticism that President Obama wasted too much time on health care while the jobs front languished.

He echoed Obama’s appraisal that “we are beginning to turn the corner” as the president surveyed the economic landscape late last week.

The economy added about 162,000 jobs in March, the most in nearly three years. But about 48,000 of those jobs went to temporary Census workers hired by Uncle Sam.

The economy is growing again, but at a pace too slow to soon replace the 8.4 million jobs erased in the recession, which began in late 2007. More than 11 million people are drawing unemployment insurance benefits.

“We’ve inherited a terrible situation,” Summers said. “The most pressing economic problems since the Great Depression in our country.”

Next, the president’s economic team is pushing for progress on financial reform — now on the front burner after the federal health care overhaul. Summers said the president wants the legislation on his desk within two weeks.

“I expect that reform is going to pass,” Summers said.
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