President Obama's jobs council shutting down Thursday

By Josh Lederman

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Jan. 31 2013 12:25 p.m. MST

In this Jan. 17, 2012, file photo, General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt listens at right as President Barack Obama meets with the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington. Obama’s jobs council is expiring, and there are no signs he plans to renew it. Obama created the council in 2011 and filled it with prominent business leaders and economists. The panel offered advice on accelerating job creation, but the president only met with the council a handful of times.

Associated Press

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will let his jobs council expire this week without renewing its charter, winding down one source of input from the business community even as unemployment remains stubbornly high.

When Obama in January 2011 formed his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, unemployment was hovering above 9 percent. Two years later, more than 12 million people in the U.S. are out of work. The unemployment rate has fallen to 7.8 percent, but both parties agree that's still too high.

A provision in Obama's executive order establishing the council says it sunsets on Thursday. A White House official said the president does not plan to extend it.

Officials said the president always intended for the council to fulfill its mission and then wind down, and said Obama would continue to actively engage and seek input from business leaders about ways to accelerate job-creation and economic growth. Among the steps Obama plans to pursue are expedited permits for infrastructure projects, plus programs to boost entrepreneurship and workforce development.

Even before it was clear whether Obama would renew the jobs council, Republicans seized on its likely expiration as evidence the president has devoted insufficient attention to creating jobs, which polling shows remains a top priority for Americans. The Republican National Committee dubbed it part of "the failed Obama record," while the House Republicans' campaign committee, in an online petition, accused Obama of laying off his own jobs council.

Adding to the concern about the job market's continued vulnerability, the Commerce Department said Wednesday that the U.S. economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.1 percent from October through December of last year, the first quarterly drop since 2009. The Federal Reserve said the economy appears to have "paused in recent months."

The jobs council was a successor to another economic advisory board Obama created at the onset of his presidency. The panel was chaired by General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt and was composed of prominent business leaders and economists. Immelt said Thursday that progress has been made on implementing 90 percent of the council's recommendations.

"While each member of the jobs council provided a different perspective, we were unified by a shared dedication to accelerating job creation and economic growth in this country," Immelt said in a statement released by the White House.

Obama met with the council only a handful of times. During the last meeting, in February 2012, the president and the council highlighted an engineering education initiative alongside school deans.

To understand the abysmal nature of our economic recovery, look no further than the president's disinterest in learning lessons from actual job creators. Whether ignoring the group or rejecting its recommendations,

"The president treated his jobs council as more of a nuisance than a vehicle to spur job creation," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, arguing that the council's expiration exposed Obama's disinterest in learning from job-creators.

The jobs council's main work product was report released in January 2012, entitled "Roadmap to Renewal." The council also organized a series of "listening and action" meetings across the country last year with business owners, local elected officials and academics, although Obama didn't attend those sessions.

Critics have argued that the council's primary purpose was to create the appearance of action at a time when the nation was pining for something — anything — to rein in soaring joblessness. The administration acted on many of the council's recommendations, including suggestions to streamline permitting and small business loans, increase tourist visas and boost energy efficiency.

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