White House downplays Dec. jobs data

Democrats used the jobs report as yet another vessel to push for the extension in unemployment benefits Obama seeks.

President Barack Obamaâ„¢s White House met Fridayâ„¢s disappointing December jobs report with a shrug.

Even though the Labor Departmentâ„¢s estimate of 74,000 new jobs in December was far below projections, Jason Furman, the chairman of Obamaâ„¢s Council of Economic Advisers, pushed the message that the economy is on the upswing ” and would be damaged if Obamaâ„¢s push to extend unemployment benefits fails in Congress.

Å“We continue to focus on the longer-term trend in the economy ” 2.2 million private sector jobs added and a 1.2 percentage point decline in the unemployment rate over the course of 2013,” Furman said in a White House blog post.

Furman, along with Democratic allies on Capitol Hill, used the jobs report as yet another vessel to push for the extension in unemployment benefits Obama seeks. Obama expressed optimism in the Senateâ„¢s progress toward an unemployment benefits deal Thursday, though since then talks stalled. The Senate will hold no more votes until Monday evening.

Å“Todayâ„¢s numbers are also a reminder of the work that remains, especially on one of our nationâ„¢s most immediate and pressing challenges: long-term unemployment,” Furman said.

One monthâ„¢s data doesnâ„¢t tell the story of the long-term recovery the White House aims to remind people it has overseen, officials said, more work needs to be done to bring the economy back to pre-recession levels and the data is regularly revised after the fact. Obama himself is more focused on long-term figures than on month-to-month data.

Austan Goolsbee, former director of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, said the jobs number was obviously weak but that it looked like an outlier possibly impacted by bad weather, a short Christmas season and other seasonal factors.

Å“The three-month average is always what you want to use rather than any single month,” Goolsbee said.

But he added that the soft number should serve as a warning to the White House ” and everyone else ” that it is not yet clear that the economy has achieved enough momentum to consistently churn out large numbers of new jobs.

Å“Everyone got too excited by one excellent number last month,” he said. Å“You want to see multiple months of the same thing before you conclude anything. This is a cautionary note not to declare victory yet.”

The White House did find silver linings in the jobs numbers. The unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent, the first time during Obamaâ„¢s presidency it has been below 7 percent, though the figure is largely due to the long-term unemployed dropping out of the labor force.

Furman also reiterated the administrationâ„¢s regular talking point that the economy has continued to grow since the nadir of the recession, though he once again cautioned that not extending long-term unemployment benefits could cost 240,000 jobs by yearâ„¢s end.

Furman also noted that, with the federal unemployment benefits program Obama seeks to extend expiring Dec. 28, the share of Americans who receive federal unemployment benefits will fall to the lowest on record.

Å“However,” Furman said, Å“now is not the time to abruptly remove such a widely-used lifeline and make an unprecedented cut to support for the unemployed.” Politico

AT/ISH

Source: Press TV