The White House is lauding a rosier election-year economic forecast, predicting the economy could add two million jobs this year. But the upbeat projection is based partly on the shaky premise that Congress will sign off on President Barack Obama's jobs agenda.
While the White House is wary of predicting how the new job creation would affect the nation's unemployment rate, officials point to private estimates that it could lower unemployment from the current 8.3 percent to about 8 percent, where it was when Obama took office in January 2009.
In rushing out a more optimistic jobs forecast, the White House is trying to get ahead of another, more dismal set of its own unemployment predictions. The budget Obama will release Monday forecasts an average unemployment rate of 8.9 percent in 2012.
But White House economist Alan Krueger said that projection was made in mid-November, before a recent flurry of positive economic data. As a result, Krueger said, the unemployment projections in the budget should be considered "stale and out-of-date."
"Since we made our forecast, however, we learned that the unemployment rate has fallen by an impressive 0.8 percentage point over the past six months, and other job market indicators have improved," Krueger said.
However, an administration official said sunnier predictions for 2012 are also contingent on Congress passing Obama's economic proposals. That includes a full-year extension of expiring payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits, as well as elements of the jobs bill the president proposed last year that are expected to be part of his new budget.
Republican lawmakers blocked some of those proposals last year and are unlikely to change course and support Obama's measures in 2012.
In tying the president's proposals to predictions of stronger job growth, the White House appears to be trying to build public support for Obama's agenda and increase pressure on Congress to support it.
The prediction of 2 million new jobs this year is expected to be part of the annual Economic Report of the President, due out after the budget, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the report ahead of its release.