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Obama's Top Economist Puts Best Spin On Weak Jobs Report

Feb 4, 2011

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Well, January didn't work out so well for the U.S. economy.

Yes, the jobless rate fell to 9 percent. But much of that seems due to workers leaving the workforce, not robust hiring.

Meanwhile, the economy only created a paltry 36,000 new jobs last month. Winter weather got a lot of the blame so this is clearly the winter of our discontent for a few reasons.

Austan Goolsbee, chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisors, attempted to cast the best light possible on Friday's report. From his statement:

Today's employment report shows that the unemployment rate fell sharply to 9.0 percent and private sector payrolls increased by 50,000 in January. Revisions to private sector payroll data show that 1.1 million jobs were added during 2010, the strongest private sector job growth since 2006. The 0.8 percentage point decline in the unemployment rate over the past two months is a welcome development; however, the rate remains unacceptably high.

The overall trend of economic data in recent months has been encouraging, as initiatives put in place by this Administration are taking hold, but there is still considerable work to do...

As Goolsbee says every month, you don't want to make too much out of one month's data since one month doesn't a trend make.

Still, it's hard not to be a little dispirited if you're the administration by this chart:

The administration can also count on catching flak from its Republican opponents every time a weak jobs report hits the headlines. Such as this criticism from Speaker John Boehner Friday:

"The president's 'stimulus' spending binge isn't working and has failed to deliver on its promise to keep unemployment below eight percent. The spending binge is hurting job creation — eroding confidence, draining funds away from private investment, and spreading uncertainty among job creators. And now the president is asking for an increase in the national debt limit without any commitment to stopping the spending binge that has shackled our economy.

"Instead of more 'stimulus' spending and more debt, as the president proposed in his State of the Union address, we need less spending, more freedom, and more certainty for those in America who create jobs.

The administration knows the best defense is a good offense on the economy and that it needs to be seen as being focused on jobs and the economy generally.

So Goolsbee was quick to say that he and Gene Sperling, Obama's National Economic Council director, will on Friday be talking up the administration's innovation agenda which is meant in part to help improve the climate for businesses, especially small ones, to make jobs.

Goolsbee explains the innovative agenda in a video released Thursday. It's perhaps the best explanation of what the administration is hoping to do to boost prospects for entrepreneurs.

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