Obama Says Jobs Report Is Encouraging for Recovery

President Barack Obama said today’s employment report is a sign that the economy is recovering from the “terrible damage” caused by the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Still, recent increases in private sector employment are “not good enough,” Obama said at the White House. “The unemployment rate is still unacceptably high.”

Obama spoke before leaving for a 10-day trip through Asia that is focused on trade and expanding U.S. exports. In remarks directed at Congress, he said the U.S. can’t afford to get “mired” in partisan battles over policy while countries such as China move forward to expand their economies.

The Labor Department reported that the overall economy added 151,000 jobs in October, exceeding all estimates in a Bloomberg News survey of economists. The increase wasn’t large enough to make a dent in the jobless rate, which held steady at 9.6 percent.

“We need to accelerate our economic growth so that we are producing jobs at a faster pace,” he said. “I am open to any idea, any proposal, any way we can get the economy growing faster, so that people who need work can find it faster.”

The economy was the top issue in the Nov. 2 midterm elections in which Republicans won a majority of seats in the House of Representatives and narrowed the Democratic edge in the Senate.

Tax Battle

Ohio Republican Representative John Boehner, likely to be the next House speaker, used the jobs report to renew the Republican push for an extension of all income tax cuts approved in 2001 and 2003, which are set to expire at the end of the year. Obama has opposed keeping the tax cuts for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and married couples earning more than $250,000.

“Stopping these tax hikes -- and cutting spending to pre- ‘stimulus,’ pre-bailout levels -- would help eliminate the uncertainty gripping small businesses,” Boehner said in a statement.

The administration signaled yesterday that Obama is “open” to negotiations for a temporary extension of all the tax rates in order to win approval for keeping the lower rates for middle-income taxpayers.

New Markets

One key to creating jobs is opening new markets, Obama said, and that is a top item on the agenda for the Asia trip.

“I’m going to be talking about opening up additional markets, in places like India, so that American businesses can sell more products abroad in order to create more jobs here at home,” the president said.

Obama has said he hopes to complete a revised free-trade pact with South Korea, which has been stalled for three years, to help reach his goal of doubling exports in five years to more than $2 trillion. U.S. exports account for about one in five manufacturing jobs, Obama said in a speech on March 11.

In India, he will meet with group of U.S. chief executive officers, including Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric Co. and Jim McNerney of Boeing Co., and plans to address the U.S.-India Business Council tomorrow in Mumbai, India’s financial capital.

Other executives scheduled to meet with Obama in India are Honeywell International Inc. CEO David Cote, PepsiCo Inc. CEO Indra Nooyi and McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. CEO Terry McGraw III, according to Jen Psaki, a White House spokeswoman. United Technologies Corp. CEO Louis Chenevert also plans to attend, the company said.

Economic Competition

The U.S. is locked in a competitive race with other economies of the world, Obama said.

“Our success or failure in this race will depend on whether we can come together as a nation. Our future depends on putting politics aside,” he said.

Obama aims to announce new U.S. export business in India, Asia’s third-largest economy, to show a link between sales abroad and jobs and economic growth at home.

“All around the world, countries are moving,” Obama told a Cabinet meeting yesterday. “They are serious about competing with us not just on manufacturing but on services.”

Obama also will travel to Seoul, South Korea, for a meeting of Group of 20 leaders and then to Yokohama, Japan, for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

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