With a weak job market weighing on his presidency, Barack Obama heard ideas Monday from a private-sector task force of some two-dozen business executives on how to boost employment.
Neither President Obama nor most economists see quick fixes to the nation's 9.1 percent unemployment rate. But the president's official jobs council offered a list of "fast-action" proposals that the council said could create more than a million jobs without the need for major legislation from Congress.
The proposals come as the economy has slowed to a disappointing crawl, and as Washington policymakers are mired in tense and politicized negotiations over the federal budget. Some new jobs policies could potentially help both the economy and offer the president a chance to stand above partisan politics, locking arms with leaders from the business community.
• Form business partnerships with community colleges to train more workers for today's open jobs.
• Streamline permitting processes to speed more construction projects. Council members Jeff Immelt of General Electric and Ken Chenault of American Express said some simple steps could achieve this goal "without undercutting the protections that our regulatory system provides."
• Make it easier for foreign tourists to obtain visas to travel to the US.
• Help small employers get more loans with help from the Small Business Administration.
• Help construction workers pick up their tools again with a campaign to upgrade commercial and government buildings for energy efficiency. Obama also touted this so-called Better Buildings Initiative Monday while visiting Cree, a maker of energy-efficient lighting in Durham, after the jobs council meeting.
While these proposals can help, said Messrs. Immelt and Chenault in Monday's Wall Street Journal, longer-term actions are also needed to fill a gaping jobs hole left by the deep recession.
"To truly bend the curve [of job creation], we need a more strategic view," they wrote. For the longer term, Immelt and Chenault wrote that the council has eight teams that will offer other ideas for jobs creation over the next 90 days and beyond. Those may include policies to attract more investment from foreign firms, upgrade US infrastructure, welcome high-skill immigrants, and reform US tax and regulatory policies.
At the meeting Monday, Obama told the council he was heeding calls from the private sector to remove regulatory obstacles to job creation, where possible. And he expressed general support for the council's proposals.
"We’re going to pursue these ideas and any good ideas that are out there, no matter where they come from," Obama said in remarks to workers at Cree.
He used the appearance to unveil one new jobs-related effort. "Today, with the leadership of the jobs council, we’re announcing an all-hands-on-deck strategy to train 10,000 new American engineers every year," Obama said. "And by the way, our jobs council,... they’re doing this not counting on a whole bunch of federal funding."