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December 8th, 2009
12:53 PM ET

Can the Federal Government really create jobs?

Barbara Kiviat
Time

The Obama Administration is out to create jobs. Let's not get our hopes up.

The day before the Labor Department announced a second month of 10%-plus unemployment last week, the White House hosted a get-together to hear from executives, labor leaders and academics about how the Federal Government can jolt job growth. "We're looking for fresh perspectives," the President said. "I am open to every demonstrably good idea."

That may sound promising, but the truth is, drumming up new jobs on short notice isn't exactly in the government's wheelhouse. In the long term, what the government does and doesn't do is incredibly important to the health of the labor market. Trade policy, corporate tax rates, the structure of health care — these things all have a real impact on economic growth. But Washington's tool kit doesn't work nearly as well in the short run. Right now companies aren't hiring for a very specific reason: there's not as much demand for their products and services. Callous as it may sound, high unemployment at the front end of an economic recovery is perfectly normal.

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Filed under: Economy • Job Market • President Barack Obama
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