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White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett maintains the Obama administration has entered one of the most critical phases of its economic recovery program: job creation. Over the past 10 months, the president’s domestic agenda, with the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as its centerpiece, has stabilized the financial system and enable the nation to avert Depression 2.0.
In recent weeks, there have been a number of positive economic indicators: the U.S. Commerce Department reported that GDP grew at a 2.8% annual rate for the third quarter — ending four quarters of economic contraction — and sales of new homes rose 6.2% in November, the highest level in more than a year. Moreover, Friday’s U.S. Labor Department report on employment showed the unemployment rate dropped to 10% in November from 10.2% in October. There has been little movement, however, in the African American unemployment rate which currently stands at 15.4%.
To further address this pressing issue, Jarrett said the president convened last week’s White House Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth to bring “a cross section of people together to focus very specifically on what we can do to bring down the unemployment rate and create jobs. We think there is a good opportunity for both the public and private sector to collaborate and come up with suggestions.” The 130 business leaders, labor officials, economists and mayors discussed initiatives in areas such as infrastructure, manufacturing, small business, international trade, and renewable energy.
Operating the White House’s intergovernmental affairs and public engagement apparatus, Jarrett served as one of the top officials who orchestrated this summit among some of the nation’s leading business innovators. Next, she will coordinate grassroots and digital outreach efforts to divergent business, political and civic communities in pursuit of even more job creation and industry development concepts. Jarret’s expectations: “Out of all this conversation, we are hoping that some very specific, concrete ideas surface that the president and his economic team can get behind and work with Congress, if necessary, to get legislation passed.” On the day of last week’s forum, Black Enterprise Editor-in-Chief Derek T. Dingle conducted a one-on-one interview with Jarrett on the administration’s plans to ensure that the nascent economic recovery will come with jobs.
Black Enterprise: By putting together this summit, is it an indication that the stimulus package isn’t working?
Valerie Jarrett: The stimulus package is doing exactly what it set out to do. When the president came into office, he inherited the worst economic meltdown in our lifetime and took very bold steps to bring us back from the precipice. In January, when he was inaugurated, we were losing 700,000 jobs per month. That number has dropped precipitously since then. We’ve had a whole range of actions taken on behalf of the administration to stop the dramatic down spiral of the economy and we are seeing that the gross national product is actually, for the first time in two years, on the upswing. So we know we are moving in the right direction. However, as productivity increases, we also know that employment is usually a lagging indicator. So what the president said is now, what more can we do to help jumpstart job creation?