20110613 obama jobs 54
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on the economy following a tour of Cree, Inc., a manufacturer of energy efficient LED lighting and a meeting with President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, in Durham, N.C., June 13, 2011. - 

Kai Ryssdal: One hesitates to mention this on an otherwise perfectly pleasant Monday, but the calendar doesn't lie. We're only 17 short months from Election Day. A year and a half, almost.

So it's of course time to start talking the politics of the American economy. On the same day that would-be Republican candidates are set to debate in New Hampshire, President Barack Obama went to North Carolina today to talk jobs. He toured a high-tech lighting factory and he got some recommendations from his Jobs and Competitiveness Council, things like boosting tourism and creating clean-tech jobs.

So, how's that workin' out so far? Our Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale starts us off.

John Dimsdale: Running for office, Obama vowed to create five million green energy jobs within a decade. But the White House estimates so far there are fewer than 800,000 new jobs building electric car batteries and making new LED light bulbs, like at the factory Obama toured today.

Barack Obama: I want to see the LEDs and solar panels and wind turbines and electric cars of tomorrow made right here in the U.S. of A.

But that green strategy is far from enough to reduce unemployment. That's because foreign factories are meeting the demand for goods, says Gary Burtless at the Brookings Institution.

Gary Burtless: To the extent that that increase in demand is fulfilled by overseas production, we're not increasing the demand for workers here in the United States.

Obama is betting that demand will come eventually from energy-efficient products. But the President's Council on Jobs today issued much more traditional recommendations for boosting employment: cutting red tape for construction permits and small business loans, getting rid of tourist visa restrictions.

Business circles gave that a big thumbs up today. Matt McDonald, at Hamilton Place Strategies says, when the president talks green jobs, that's all it is.

Matt McDonald: The challenge for the White House is that that is going to be fundamentally an anecdotal story for them and not necessarily a big numbers-driven story where they can point to month over month.

Eventually, green technologies promise to generate lots of new jobs. The question is whether that'll be soon enough for Obama to save his own.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.