Obama Calls Drop in Unemployment Rate ‘Positive News,’ Fills Out His Economic Team

Jan 7, 2011 1:40pm

President Obama today called the job numbers released this morning “positive news” but said there still is work to be done on the economy. The numbers showed a drop in the nation’s unemployment rate to 9.4 percent in December.

“Overall, the decline in the unemployment rate is positive news, but it only underscores the importance of us not letting up on our efforts,” President Obama said from the floor of Thompson Creek Manufacturing factory in Landover, Maryland.

“We know these numbers can bounce around from month to month, but the trend is clear,” Obama added, noting that this marks 12 straight months of private-sector job growth for the first time since 2006. “The economy added 1.3 million jobs last year, and each quarter was stronger than the previous quarter, which means that the pace of hiring is beginning to pick up.”

The president said they are seeing “optimistic” economic forecasts for the year ahead, in part due to the tax cuts package he signed into law last month, including a payroll tax cut for workers and tax breaks to encourage investment, innovation and hiring in businesses.

“I fought for that package because, even though our economy is recovering, we've still got a lot to do,” the president said. “So even though we've created 1.3 million jobs, we've saved a whole lot of jobs, you've still got a whole bunch of folks who are out there looking, still struggling. We've got a big hole that we're digging ourselves out of.”

The president urged all businesses to take advantage of the temporary expensing provision in the tax cut compromise.

“Companies who are listening out there: If you are planning or thinking about making investments sometime in the future, make those investments now and you're going to save money. And that will help us grow the economy. It'll help you grow your business."

The president said businesses around the nation need to duplicate the success of places like Thompson Creek Manufacturing, a family-owned factory that manufactures and installs energy efficient home improvement replacement products and that has benefitted from the administration’s small business proposals. 

Taking advantage of a tax break for hiring unemployed workers, the company grew it’s workface from 200 to 300 in one year. And by taking advantage of the tax credit the company had a 55 percent boost in sales, the White House said.

“Government can't guarantee Thompson Creek or any business will be successful, but government can knock down barriers like a lack of affordable credit or high costs for investment or high cost for hiring. We can do something about that. Government can remove obstacles in your path," the president said.

As expected, the president made four economic personnel announcements – all of whom stood with him on stage –- calling them the people who would “help America fulfill this mission” to put people back to work.

Declaring him a man of “decency and integrity,” President Obama appointed Treasury official Gene Sperling as director of the National Economic Council, replacing Larry Summers.

“One of the reasons I've selected Gene is, he's done this before. This is his second tour of duty heading up the NEC,” Obama said of Sperling who headed the NEC under the Clinton administration. “And in his tenure in the Clinton administration during the late '90s, he helped formulate the policies that contributed to turning deficits to surpluses and a time of prosperity and progress for American families in a sustained way. “

Mr. Obama also elevated Jason Furman to be principal deputy at the National Economic Council, himself a two-year veteran of the White House already, to work alongside Sperling.

The president also announced his nomination of Heather Higginbottom, who is currently the deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council, to serve as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.

“She understands the relationship between numbers on a ledger and the lives of real people. As we make cuts that are necessary to rein in the deficit, I want to make sure I've got Heather there so that we're meeting our fundamental obligations to our people and to our economy, as well," the president said.

Rounding out the personnel announcements, the president also nominated Katharine Abraham to the Council of Economic Advisers.

“Now part of our mission, part of this team's mission in the months ahead will be to maximize the steps we've taken to spur the economy,” the president said. “We have one focus, and that is making sure that we are duplicating the success of places like Thompson Creek all across the country. We want businesses to grow; we want this economy to grow; and we want to put people back to work.”

– Sunlen Miller

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