Obama says uncertainty in debt debate stunting job growth [Updated]

Washington Bureau

President Obama says new jobs figures showing an uptick in unemployment are due in part to uncertainty about whether Congress will vote to raise the debt ceiling, because businesses are reticent to hire more people when they don’t know if the U.S. is about to default on its obligations.

Hours after the release of the report showing the jobless rate has ticked up to 9.2%, Obama appeared in the White House Rose Garden calling for Congress to take action on a number of items -- starting with the vote to raise the debt ceiling.

“The sooner we get this done,” Obama said of efforts to pass a deal, “the sooner we give business the certainty they need to grow and hire.”

Overall payroll employment rose by just 18,000 in June, according to the Council of Economic Advisors. Sectors with employment increases included leisure and hospitality, healthcare and manufacturing. But sectors including government, financial activities and construction saw declines in jobs.

Administration officials say the right response is to adopt a “balanced approach,” meaning reducing the deficit by cutting spending but also raising some tax revenues.


[Updated, 11:20 a.m., July 8: Most private economists don’t think uncertainty over the debt limit had much effect on job creation in June, although that surely didn’t help confidence. Rather, experts and business owners attributed the weak hiring largely to weak sales and concerns that consumers aren’t seeing the kinds of job and income gains to support a strong pickup in spending.]

White House officials say the government can help the jobs picture by investing in roads and bridges, helping to put construction and government employees back to work.

The administration is also pushing Congress to streamline the patent process to help entrepreneurs, and to pass pending free-trade agreements with Asian and South American countries.

Obama said out-of-work Americans write him every day complaining that leaders on Wall Street and in Washington have let them down.

“What matters most to Americans,” Obama said, “is getting our economy on a sounder footing more broadly. … We still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do.”