With the United States’ unemployment rate at its highest level this year, President Barack Obama is calling on lawmakers to pass a series of his administration’s proposals to improve the economy.Â Opposition Republicans are blaming the president’s policies for the country’s economic troubles.Â Even White House officials are calling Friday’s jobs numbers “disappointing.”
The U.S. Labor Department says only 18,000 jobs were added to the nation’s economy in June, the smallest increase in nine months.Â That pushed the unemployment rate up one-tenth of one percent last month, to 9.2 percent.
President Obama acknowledged Friday that the economy is not producing enough jobs.
“Today’s job report confirms what most Americans already know, we still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do to give people the security and opportunity that they deserve,” Obama said.
The president said more than two million private-sector jobs have been added in 16 months.Â But he said with more than eight million jobs lost in the recession, the economy still has a big hole to fill.
In the White House Rose Garden, Obama told reporters numerous factors have been slowing the economy’s rebound, including high gasoline prices, the debt crisis in Greece and the tsunami and earthquake in Japan.
To boost the economic recovery, the president called on Congress to pass several administration-backed proposals.Â Among them are free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
“Today, Congress can advance trade agreements that will help businesses sell more American-made goods and services to Asia and South America, supporting thousands of jobs here at home,” Obama added.Â “That could be done right now.”
Obama said the unemployment report adds new urgency to his talks with congressional leaders on reducing the government deficit and raising the legal borrowing limit.
The president said continuing uncertainty over the debt limit is one factor keeping businesses from hiring.Â He said an agreement must be reached soon.
“The American people sent us here to do the right thing, not for party, but for country,” Obama said.Â “So we are going to work together to get things done on their behalf.Â That is the least that they should expect of us, not the most that they should expect of us.”
The U.S. government has until August 2 to raise the debt ceiling from its current $14.3 trillion.
The Obama administration is proposing to cut about $4 trillion from the deficit by reducing spending, increasing revenue and ending some tax breaks.Â Opposition Republicans want to reduce the deficit by cutting spending, but House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner says they will not support any tax increases.
“You have heard me say it before, a debt limit increase that raises taxes or fails to make serious spending cuts won’t pass the House,” said Boehner.
Top Republicans slammed the administration’s handling of the economy.Â They called the June unemployment figures “completely unacceptable,” and blamed excessive government spending for the lack of new jobs.
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a Republican presidential candidate, said President Obama is “out of answers and running out of time.”