For months, White House advisers have been echoing versions of the same refrain: "Frankly, jobs have to be the top priority," as economic adviser Larry Summers put it in mid-December. This is true both as a policy matter without job growth, the economic recovery will stagnate and in terms of politics. A poll late last year by Greenberg Quinlin, a Democratic firm, found that jobs were far and away the biggest economic concern, outstripping worries about health care and budget deficits.
So how has President Obama done so far? By pushing through a major economic stimulus last February, he successfully helped avert a total catastrophe, lessening the job loss, say economists. But the economy still has a long way to go, and more stimulus, which Obama has already proposed, will likely be needed in the coming months. "Layoffs have abated from the financial panic of a year ago," says Moody's economist Mark Zandi, who advises both the Democrats and Republicans. "But the number of forced separations remains uncomfortably high. Even worse, hiring and job creation remain dormant."
Public anxiety is reflected in hard numbers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics listed 11.9 million people as unemployed in January 2009, when Obama took office, compared with 15.3 million in December. Obama is not responsible for the economic contraction that led to those job losses, but he has not yet found a way to solve the problem.
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