The Obama administration expects U.S. job creation to quicken but economic recovery has a long way to go despite improved trends, White House officials said on Sunday.
We're in a very different place than we were a year ago, White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers told ABC's This Week. A year ago, we were losing 600,000 jobs a month. Now the process of job creation has started. We expect that it will accelerate.
The comments by Summers and similar remarks from fellow adviser Christina Romer on another network followed Friday's Labor Department report that showed the economy created jobs in March at the fastest clip in three years. But the addition of 162,000 jobs was tempered by a stubborn unemployment rate that remained at a 9.7 percent.
Summers, while noting some large businesses were beginning to hire again and negative trends were turning around, said monthly jobless rates can fluctuate and Friday's report was no reason to become complacent.
Romer added on NBC's Meet the Press that projected economic growth of 3 percent this year is not enough to create a lot of jobs.
We still face a lot of headwinds, Romer said.
The pair pushed for congressional approval of tax credits and other incentives for small businesses to expand and spur new hiring.
Summers additionally said a more than 10 percent jump in income tax refunds this spring should trigger spending and boost employment.
REPUBLICANS TAKE EXCEPTION
Senate Republicans, however, took issue with the administration's analysis of the jobs picture and recommended broader tax relief with less government intervention.
Washington should be making it easier to hire and to expand, rather than making it more expensive to grow the workforce or their employees' paychecks, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell's office said in a statement.
Increasing exports is the best way to bring back lost U.S. manufacturing jobs, Summers told CNN in a separate interview, adding that commercial practices in a number of countries, including China, must be addressed to achieve this.
Neither Romer nor Summers, however, would publicly back claims by some lawmakers that China manipulates its currency at the expense of U.S. jobs.
Currency issues gained prominence over the weekend in Washington when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said he would delay a report due April 15 on the currency question.
Some U.S. lawmakers claim China deliberately keeps the value of the yuan low against the dollar as an effective subsidy. They say China is giving its exporters a price advantage and ballooning America's trade deficit.
Summers said no one can be satisfied where we are on the trade imbalance, but that the decision to delay the report was not calculated to engage China on Iran's nuclear ambitions and other delicate issues.
Chinese President Hu Jintao is due in Washington on April 12 for a nuclear security summit and analysts said it could have been seen as an insult if Washington had labeled China a currency manipulator just days after Hu's visit.
Summers said economic issues are key to U.S. diplomacy and the administration prefers to take advantage of upcoming high-level US/China economic meetings in Beijing as well as G20 meetings later this spring to address the currency issue.
Those are opportunities to engage with China, to engage with other countries that have large trade surpluses, other countries who think they can continue to rely on the United States as an importer of last resort, Summers said.
Romer said the issue would be high on the agenda but that ultimately the yuan needs to be more influenced by market forces.
The U.S. strategy is to build momentum to cast the matter as one of persuading China to accept greater responsibility as a global trade partner and boost American exports.
(Reporting by John Crawley and Andy Sullivan; editing by Todd Eastham and Vicki Allen)