Facing a dismal jobs report, President Barack Obama called on Congress Friday to end uncertainty over their debt standoff and pass a litany of administration-backed proposals, including a payroll tax cut extension and three free trade agreements. Obama's top economist said implementing those policies would reduce the jobless rate a full point by the time Obama faces re-election in the fall of 2012.
But Republican opposition and Washington's heated partisan atmosphere would likely make passing the full slate of administration proposals a political pipe dream.
Obama spoke from the Rose Garden shortly after the release of fresh figures that showed employers added just 18,000 jobs in June, the fewest in nine months, and the unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent. The president said the numbers were yet another sign that a full economic recovery is still elusive.
"Our economy as a whole just isn't producing nearly enough jobs for everybody who is looking," Obama said.
The jobs report comes against the backdrop of negotiations on cutting government spending and increasing the nation's borrowing limit in order to prevent the U.S. from defaulting on its debt. Obama said the new jobs report adds fresh urgency to the talks, saying an agreement would end uncertainty that is keeping businesses from hiring.
"The American people sent us here to do the right thing, not for party, but for country. So we're going to work together to get things done on their behalf," he said. "That's the least that they should expect of us, not the most that they should expect of us."
White House economist Austan Goolsbee said internal administration forecasts show that the unemployment rate could drop by a point by the November 2012 elections if lawmakers take several steps, including extending the payroll tax cut, passing trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, and creating an infrastructure bank. In an interview with CNBC on Friday, Goolsbee said passing those proposals would bring the unemployment rate to 8.2 percent by the fourth quarter of 2012.
The White House has had to backtrack on its unemployment predictions before. Obama economists predicted the jobless rate would stay below 8 percent if lawmakers passed Obama's massive stimulus plan in 2009. Congress obliged, but the unemployment rate soared.
Republicans used Friday's jobs report as an opportunity to slam Obama's economic agenda.
"President Obama is out of answers and running out of time," said former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a presidential candidate.