Surrounded by members of his economic team, President Obama tried to put a sunny face on the end of the so-called "recovery summer" at a press conference today, describing the latest state of the economy as a positive step.
"In the month I took office, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month," Obama said. "This morning, new figures show the economy produced 67,000 private sector jobs in August, the eighth consecutive month of private job growth. Additionally, the numbers for July were revised upward to 107,000. Now that's positive news."
The President's comments came after new unemployment figures showed the jobless rate increased slightly, to 9.6 percent last month. The country also lost a net total of 54,000 jobs in August, primarily temporary Census positions. The job loss, while not as bad as some economist expected, still went unmentioned by Obama in his remarks.
"The key point I'm making right now is that the economy is moving in a positive direction, jobs are being created; they're just not being created as fast as they need to, given the big hole that we experienced," said Obama. "We're moving in the right direction. We just have to speed it up."
Yet, it seems as though the underwhelming recovery of the "recovery summer" has given Republicans across the country campaign ammo as they head into the mid-term elections this fall.
"'[The] Recovery summer' has become the summer of despair," said Carly Fiorina, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in California.
For now the President is trying to stay focused on what can be done to help the economy, claiming that it is Republicans who are stalling the process. Today he continued to push a lending initiative that he said could help provide credit to small businesses.
"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," Obama said.
On Monday, the president will begin outlining a number of other relatively small-bore measures, which include spending more money on infrastructure, a research tax credit, and other ways to encourage small business investment.
"For this economy to come back, it's going to have to be the private sector to come back," said Christina Romer, the outgoing chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers for the Obama administration. "What we're talking about now is not a second stimulus, it's targeted measures. But, they can make an appreciable difference.
Some liberal economists maintain the problem was that last year's $864 billion stimulus package was not enough.
"It was obvious from the beginning that it was too small," said economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. "He clearly needs more, the economy needs more. We need a real effort to get the economy moving."
Uncertainty of Recovery
Republicans argue that businesses are loathe to invest when facing new taxes, mandates, and regulations.
"This administration has done a lot to discourage business from growing and hiring," said Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.), the Senate's minority leader. "That's the problem."
It is an idea Romer disagrees with. "I say they are wrong. There is some uncertainty out there. I think it is largely the uncertainty about: will the demand be there? Will I have consumers for my products? And I think that is the fundamental thing that we need to be working on, and it's what we're working on."
"Will Happen Someday"
This sort of acknowledgment, however, is quite a change in tone from the optimism that some in the administration projected just a few months ago. In fact, in April, Vice President Joe Biden predicted that "some time in the next couple of months we're going to be creating between 250,000 jobs a month and 500,000 jobs a month." Now, the White House says the European debt crisis undermined that trajectory.
While Romer's White House role is ending today, she still remains hopeful.
"It's...incredibly emotional," Romer said. "It's not just a number, it's not about me, it's not about how we feel. It's...when you see the unemployment rate tick up to 9.6, your heart sinks because you know there are real people behind those numbers who are suffering, whose life is harder today. My one regret is to not be here when I get to say there are 300,000 jobs this month, there are 400,000 jobs this month. That will happen someday. It will be [a] glorious day for the American people."