President Obama Jobs Council Disbands

PHOTO: U.S. President Barack Obama, center, greets members of his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness while Education Secretary Arne Duncan, second from left, looks over documents before a meeting of council at the White House in Washington, D.C., Jan. 17PlayBloomberg via Getty Images
WATCH White House Press Secretary Downplays End of Jobs Council

Dormant for more than a year, President Obama's Jobs Council today formally disbanded, as the White House signals a new phase in its engagement of business leaders on top economic and policy priorities.

The nonpartisan advisory council of 25 private-sector business and labor leaders was first convened in February 2011. It has met just four times since then to generate ideas for boosting job growth, most recently at the White House last January.

"It was a two-year charter" when the Council was formed, said White House spokesman Jay Carney, "and the charter has expired."

While the council will no longer exist, its vision and ideas would be advanced through a "new, expanded effort to work with the business community and other outside groups," Carney said.

Republicans have seized on the transition as an opportunity to highlight the sluggish pace of economic recovery, which has persisted into Obama's second term.

The national unemployment rate is hovering near 8 percent and an estimated 12 million Americans are still looking for work. In the fourth quarter of 2012, the U.S. economy contracted, the government reported Monday, defying economists' expectations and underscoring lingering economic woes.

"To understand the abysmal nature of our economic recovery, look no further than the president's disinterest in learning lessons from actual job creators," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

"The president treated his Jobs Council as more of a nuisance than a vehicle to spur job creation," Buck said, alluding to the group's limited number of meetings.

Carney rebuffed the criticism, saying Obama's detractors were more focused on an arbitrary number of meetings rather than on the recovery of the U.S. job market from the crisis of 2009.

"There is no disputing economic cold hard facts that because of the policies that this president pursued, that kind of economic decline was reverse," Carney said. "That's the measure of your commitment to job creation and economic growth."

The purpose of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness -- its full official title -- was "to provide non-partisan advice to the president on continuing to strengthen the nation's economy and ensure the competitiveness of the United States and on ways to create jobs, opportunity, and prosperity for the American people," according to its website.

It was chaired by GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt.

Many of the group's recommendations, outlined in several public reports, were acted upon by the White House, including a new energy-efficiency initiative, increased aid to small businesses and new measures to promote international tourism.

The president has acted on 33 of 35 recommendations that did not require congressional approval, fully implementing 16, according to the Council.

Details provided by the administration about its planned private-sector outreach in the future suggest a less formal approach than the council, through which the president's economic team will periodically engage a more diverse array of groups on key issues.

Since its formation, the Jobs Council has been a flash-point between Obama and his critics.

Republicans have scrutinized membership of the council, which was stacked with deep-pocket Democratic donors and high-profile financiers of Obama's re-election campaign.

It also included several leading figures in the private-equity industry, the same kind of executives that Obama publicly labeled "job destroyers" during the campaign against GOP presidential nominee and former corporate buyout specialist Mitt Romney.

During a June 2011 meeting of the Council, comments from Obama about delays in the permitting process for stimulus jobs became a major Republican talking-point heading into the 2012 campaign.

"Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected," the president said, as the head of his council, GE's Immelt, chuckled exuberantly.

ABC News' Ann Compton and Mary Bruce contributed reporting.