Jeremy Hobson: The U.S. economy added 163,000 jobs last month. That’s the word from the Labor Department this morning. The private sector accounted for all the job creation — adding 172,000 jobs. Government employment actually declined by 9,000. And the unemployment rate ticked up from 8.2 percent to 8.3 percent. For some White House reaction we’re joined by Alan Krueger, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. Good morning.
Alan Krueger: Good morning.
Hobson: So how would you characterize this jobs report?
Krueger: Every month when the jobs report comes out, I try to look at it in the context of other information that’s coming in and I think we see a picture of an economy that’s slowly healing. When the president came into office we were losing over 800,000 jobs a month. This month we’ve added 163,000 jobs and 4.5 million over the last 29 months, so we’re slowly digging our way out of the deep hole that the recession created and there are steps that we can take to build on the steps that we’ve made.
Hobson: But the unemployment rate did tick up to 8.3 percent.
Krueger: Any increase in the unemployment rate is unwelcome. I think we need to recognize that the high level of unemployment, which is unacceptable, is a result of the deep recession. That’s why we need more job growth. That’s why the president is focused on making proposals to Congress to strengthen job growth, such as the American Jobs Act, which would create jobs for construction workers — building infrastructure, fixing our highways, roads and ports. As well as funds for state and local governments to retain school teachers and first responders. If you look at today’s report, areas of weakness were construction workers and local government education jobs. So those are areas where Congress can act right now to create more jobs in the short run.
Hobson: What’s the president doing to get this Jobs Act passed at this point? Is he having Republican leaders over in the White House? Is he trying to make a new push on this stuff?
Krueger: The president has been pressing since he made the proposals in the American Jobs Act almost a year ago. Some have passed. Importantly Congress did pass the 2 percentage point payroll tax reduction, which is helping families keep more money after taxes. That’s helping to support the economy. He continues to press Congress to take actions that will support the economy. This morning, the president is holding an event here at the White House with middle-class families to highlight the importance of extending the middle-class tax cuts to prevent a typical middle-class family from seeing their taxes go up by around $2,000 next year.
Hobson: Do you think that the unemployment rate is going to dip down below 8 percent by the time we reach Election Day?
Krueger: I can tell you that if the proposals the president has made were passed, I would expect the unemployment rate to come down further. We made a forecast, my office together with the Treasury Department and Office of Management and Budget on how the economy would evolve under the president’s policies. That forecast does predict that the unemployment rate would continue to fall if Congress passed the balanced approach the president has proposed to addressing our deficit as well as short-run programs to strengthen job growth such as investing more in infrastructure, keeping teachers and first responders on the job.
Hobson: Alan Krueger, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, thanks so much.
Krueger: Thank you.