Last Wednesday, I was part of a group of 25 financial journalists that took part in the White House’s first-ever Personal Finance Online summit. We asked dozens of questions to top ranking economic officials – and had the privilege of a brief Q&A with President Barack Obama himself.
There are many reasons to be skeptical of the Obama Administration. I’ve pieced together the most compelling reasons to worry our leaders aren’t doing enough in my recent article about ways Obama is inspiring panic, not confidence. But in the effort of balance, I have to share some of the biggest reasons for optimism that I found over the course of last week’s White House summit.
So, here is the other side of the story based on my notes from interviews with some of the Obama administration’s top economic officials:
A Focus on Sustainable Growth
Austan Goolsbee, the outgoing chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, opened last week’s summit by urging some perspective on the recently-released May job numbers. The unemployment rate ticked back up to 9.1% last month as employers hired only 54,000 new workers, the fewest in eight months.
That had some folks awfully worried, but Goolsbee stressed the addition of one million jobs in six months was a much more important trend to watch – and furthermore, the quality of those jobs is high.
“Some say if we can’t repeat the growth of the 2000s we can’t recover,” Goolsbee said last week. But he disagreed with that notion, stressing that new jobs have to come from high-tech manufacturers, technology start-ups and businesses big in exports.
Growth across the last several months would be reason enough for optimism, but the shift away “from unsustainable boom and bust cycle type of expansions to something more broad based” is the top focus of the White House right now.
That shows Obama and his team aren’t just juicing the stats with jobs that will fade away, but building a lasting recovery. That kind of approach is sorely needed in Washington.