By Justin Sink
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the latest jobs report shows President Obama was wrong to close up his his jobs council.
“This is the wrong time for President Obama to scrap his jobs council and delay his budget," Boehner said in a statement released less than an hour after a new report found the jobless rate ticking up to 7.9 percent.
"Month after month we see the same thing: high unemployment and even more debt. More than 12 million Americans are still unemployed, and it’s been that way for far too long. If government spending were what causes economic growth, as the president believes, then the economy today should be booming, and the unemployment rate in America should be plummeting."
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus leveled a similar criticism, arguing Obama has "made it clear that job creation is not a top priority for his second term."
The White House has defended the decision to allow the jobs council to expire at the end of its two-year charter, saying it was never intended to last longer than that period. In a testy exchange with reporters on Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Republican criticism over the decision was "somewhat ridiculous."
“When we hear some of the somewhat ridiculous criticisms about this, they come from people who have, on Capitol Hill, who have consistently opposed every growth initiative and jobs creation initiative the president has proposed, including in the American Jobs Act, including in the proposals the president put forward to Speaker John Boehner as recently as December,” he said.
Pressed on the jobs council's infrequent meetings — Obama had not convened a full meeting in over a year — Carney told reporters they were not judging the panel within the full context of the economic recovery.
"I appreciate the fact that you are more concerned with meetings than progress,” Carney said.
Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, pushed back against the characterization that the jobs council was used as a "political billboard" to boost Obama's chances for reelection in an appearance Friday on MSNBC.
"I don't think that's right, the jobs council was very helpful … the president is going to continue to reach out and engage the business community and others to get the best ideas so that we can to help build a stronger economy and help strengthen the middle class."
That argument could be harder to make as the unemployment rate ticks back up in the same week that the government projected a contraction of gross domestic product (GDP) for the first time since the recession.
But the jobs report did show some encouraging signs for the White House. While the unemployment rate increased, the economy added 157,000 jobs, and revised up growth numbers for November and December by an additional 127,000 workers.
The overall rate likely increased because 255,000 more people were seeking jobs from January 2012, another promising sign for economic recovery.
Yet the report also highlights the slow growth that has been a hallmark of the recovery from the 2008-2009 recession.
-This post was updated at 10:30 a.m.