President Obama warned Friday that partisan gridlock will not help put Americans back to work even as he pledged to do everything he can to expedite the economic recovery.
Speaking in the Roosevelt Room moments before he was set to depart for a 10-day trip to Asia, Obama hailed the "encouraging news" in the October unemployment report that showed 151,000 jobs were added to the economy.
Responding to the first unemployment report since his party was trounced in the midterm elections, the president said 10-straight months of private sector job growth is "not good enough."
"The unemployment rate is still unacceptably high, and we've got a lot of work to do," Obama said. He added that he won't be "satisfied until everyone looking for a job finds one."
The uptick in job growth came solely from the private sector, which added 159,000 jobs. Governments cut 8,000 positions during that same span.
So far this year, the economy has posted a net gain of 874,000 jobs, with more than 1 million total positions added by the private sector. Those gains come after a loss of more than 8 million jobs in 2008 and 2009.
The sluggish pace of the economic recovery prompted the Federal Reserve this week to announce a plan to purchase $600 billion in Treasury bonds through June of next year to keep mortgage rates and other loan rates low.
The stock market responded positively to the Fed’s action Thursday, sending stocks to their highest level since the bankruptcy of Lehman Bros. in the fall of 2008.
In the days since Election Day, Obama and his aides have pledged to work with Republicans to jump-start the economy.
On Friday, the president said he is "open to any idea, any proposal, any way we can get the economy growing faster," including a series of tax cuts and infrastructure investments.
Looking ahead to a Republican Congress, Obama warned that "our future depends on putting politics aside to solve problems."
"We can't spend the next two years mired in gridlock," Obama said.
As he prepared to depart the White House for a whirlwind trip through Asia, the president cast his travel as a way to "pry some markets open" for American exports that would create jobs in the U.S.
The White House is working to finalize a trade deal with South Korea that could provide another outlet for American exports. If approved by Congress, the trade pact would be the largest free trade agreement since the Clinton administration’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
House Republicans responded to the unemployment report by renewing their call for an extension of all the George W. Bush-era tax cuts. They say action on that issue would provide much needed certainty to businesses.
"We need to end the uncertainty that continues to hang over the private sector, and that starts with ensuring that no one faces a tax increase in this economy," House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a statement. "I am encouraged that the White House now seems to acknowledge that raising taxes in this environment will only make things more difficult for struggling small business people, families and investors.”
When Congress returns Nov. 15, Cantor said he hopes legislation will be passed to extend the tax cuts, which expire at the end of the year.
Lawmakers will need to balance their push for an extension of tax cuts, especially those in the higher tax brackets, with simultaneous arguments to shrink the deficit, according to Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Joint Economic Committee.
"We must not let consideration of deficit issues crowd out job-creating policies and investments that are still needed," Maloney said.
Martin Regalia, chief economist of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said Friday’s jobs report was “welcome news” but stressed that action on taxes and trade is critical for the recovery.
"It’s imperative that we embrace pro-growth policies in the near-term, including preventing tax increases on small business owners and individuals, and moving forward on free trade agreements,” he said.
- This article was updated at 11:18 a.m.