White House uses dour jobs numbers to push for unemployment aid

McClatchy Washington BureauJanuary 10, 2014 

The White House expressed disappointment in a dismal December jobs report -- but said the numbers show that Congress should pass an extension of aid to the jobless.

"Today’s jobs numbers show that while we are making progress, extended unemployment insurance benefits remain necessary and should be the first order of business in 2014," Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, wrote in a blog posting.

The Labor Department said Friday that employers added a tepid 74,000 jobs in December, yet the unemployment rate fell sharply to 6.7 percent. Mainstream economists had expected a number north of 200,000, based on other economic indicators that point to an accelerating growth rate.

Furman wrote that although December’s job growth was "less than expected, we continue to focus on the longer-term trend in the economy : 2.2 million private sector jobs added and a 1.2 percentage point decline in the unemployment rate over the course of 2013."

President Barack Obama at a pair of White House events this week pressed Congress to extend the jobless benefits, dismissing Republican arguments that the checks lead people to shun work and insisting there’s no need for budget offsets to pay the price.

He touted a Senate vote advancing such legislation and said he hopes Washington starts "listening to the majority of the American people and restoring the unemployment insurance for Americans who need a little help supporting their families while they look for a new job. And I’m glad the Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are working together to extend that lifeline. I hope their colleagues in the House will join them to set this right."

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