A Jobs Summit

Before leaving for a week-long trip to Asia, the President today announced that the White House will convene a jobs summit early next month. Frankly with an economy that has shed 3.49 million jobs since President Obama took office and 8.2 million jobs overall since the recession began in December 2007, this is long overdue. It is also a recognition by the Administration's economic team that their initial assumptions on the size of fiscal stimulus were insufficient to spark sustainable job creation. The story in the New York Times:

President Obama announced on Thursday that he will convene a jobs summit at the White House next month, saying "the economic growth that we've seen has not yet led to the job growth that we desperately need."

"Millions of Americans, our friends, our neighbors, our family members are desperately searching for jobs," Mr. Obama said. "This is one of the great challenges that remains in our economy, a challenge that my administration is absolutely determined to meet."

Mr. Obama made his remarks in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House, shortly before leaving Washington for a weeklong trip to Asia. He spoke after a report was released Thursday showing that fewer people had submitted applications last week for unemployment benefits than in recent weeks.

"Hiring often takes time to catch up to economic growth," Mr. Obama said. "Given the magnitude of the economic turmoil we've experienced, employers are reluctant to hire."

With health care and Afghanistan dominating the debate in Washington, many Democrats have grown concerned that the administration has not focused extensively enough on the economy and the unemployment rate that has inched up to 10.2 percent.

The jobs forum in December will include business leaders, small business owners, labor union leaders and others. It marks a pivot for Democrats as they head into next year's midterm elections, where the party's control of Congress is at stake.

While Mr. Obama is not on the ballot next year, his economic policies will be, as Democratic members of Congress and governors face an angry and worried electorate. Party strategists have been urging the White House to take more steps to respond to the economic concerns. Or, at least, show that the administration is focused on jobs.

"We all know there are limits to what government can and should do, even during such difficult times," Mr. Obama said, "but we have an obligation to consider every additional and responsible step that we can to encourage and accelerate job creation in this country."

The President also met with his Economic Recovery Advisory Board last week to discuss job creation options including making another round of investments in infrastructure. There is no short-term panacea, other than to extend unemployment benefits, but on the table should be the formulation of a national industrial policy based on a public-private partnership. Not since the 1984 presidential election, when Walter Mondale proposed a comprehensive industrial policy, has the issue sparked much discussion in either major US political party. It is time again to have this debate.

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