One day after a precipitous slide in the financial markets spurred new speculation about a double-dip recession, President Obama sought to reassure Americans that the country is slowly recovering from its economic crisis with a light at the end of a very long tunnel.
The President pointed to the slightly better than expected jobs numbers the Labor Department announced early Friday as proof of the nation’s steady but fragile economic recovery. The unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 9.1 percent as July nonfarm payrolls grew by 117,000 jobs – slightly beating expectations.The numbers are better than anticipated – economists had forecast that between 50,000 and 100,000 jobs would be created – but they’re still a bit disappointing, with growth in the size of the workforce outpacing the rate of job creation. In all, 154,000 private sector jobs were created in July, up from 80,000 in June, the strongest rate since April. Government payrolls, meanwhile, were cut by 37,000 jobs in July.
“While this marks the 17th month in a row of job growth in the private sector, we have to create more than that each month,” Obama said Friday at an event at D.C.’s Naval Shipyard. “We need to create self-sustaining cycle where companies are hiring…We know that will take some time. We are going to get through this. Things will get better, and we’re going to get there together.”
The slow but upward tick in private-sector job growth came despite a tumultuous year, Obama said. The Spring unrest in the Arab world and the tsunami in Japan affected supply chains, and markets in Europe and around the world have “taken a bumpy” ride, he acknowledged.
More recently, the U.S. economy was on a bit of a roller coaster ride with the uncertainty brought about by the debt crisis impasse in Washington. The deal struck earlier this week prevented the nation from defaulting on its debt and put the country on sounder fiscal footing, but it was also too divisive and delayed, Obama said.
“If we want our businesses to have the confidence to get the cash off the sidelines, we need to do better to grow the economy right now and strengthen our long-term finances,” he said.
When Congress gets back to work in September, Obama said he will ask lawmakers to support policies that will help middle class families and those looking for jobs to get back to work, specifically citing additional unemployment insurance for those out of work as a priority. Taking these steps will not interfere with the goal of reducing long-term deficits, he asserted.
“There’s no contradiction between us taking some steps to put people back to work right now and putting our fiscal house in order,” he said. “In fact the more we grow the more we will shrink our deficit.”
Obama delivered the remarks to a crowd of Navy and Marine officers at the D.C. Naval Shipyard where he announced several new initiatives to help ease the transition of veterans from the battlefield to the workplace — what Obama dubbed a “reverse bootcamp.” The program aims to help put veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan back to work, and will include a “returning heroes” tax credit for companies who employ veterans. The President also challenged the private sector to hire and train more than 100,000 veterans and their spouses.
“Today we’re saying to our veterans ‘you fought for us, and now we’re fighting for you,'” he said.