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Obama promises more than 600,000 stimulus jobs

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama promised Monday todeliver more than 600,000 jobs through his $787 billion stimulusplan this summer, with federal agencies pumping billions intopublic works projects, schools and summer youth programs.

Obama is ramping up his stimulus program this week even as hisadvisers are ramping down expectations about when the spending planwill stem rising unemployment.

Many of the stimulus plans that Obama announced Monday alreadywere in the works, including hundreds of maintenance projects atmilitary bases, about 1,600 state road and airport improvements,and federal money states budgeted for 135,000 teachers, principalsand school support staff.

The administration had always viewed the summer as a peak forstimulus spending, as better weather permitted more public worksconstruction and federal agencies had processed requests fromstates and others.

But Obama now promises an accelerated pace of federal spendingover the next few months to boost the economy and produce jobs.

"We have a long way to go on our road to recovery but we aregoing the right way," Obama said in a written statement preparedfor his public announcement of the additional summer stimulusactivity.

"Our measure of progress is the progress the Americanpeople see in their own lives. And until that progress is steadyand solid, we're going to keep moving forward.

"We will not grow complacent or rest. Surely and steadily, we will turn this economyaround," the statement said.

The announcement comes days after the government reported thatthe number of unemployed continues to rise; the unemployment ratenow sits at 9.4 percent, the highest in more than 25 years.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans continue to lose jobs eachmonth, although fewer jobs were lost last month than expected.

Just how much of an impact Obama's recovery program had on thepace of job losses is up for debate.

Obama has claimed as many as150,000 jobs saved or created by his stimulus plan so far, even asgovernment reports have shown the economy has lost more than 1.6million jobs since Congress approved funding for the program inFebruary.

Republicans remain critical of the stimulus spending, slammingit as a big government program that ultimately will do little forrecovery.

With only a fraction of the federal money actually spentthus far, it's premature to give the stimulus plan credit foreconomic trends, congressional Republicans said last week.

"I think the economy is just as likely to begin to recover onits own, wholly aside from this, before much of this has an impact.So I'm very skeptical that this massive sort of spending binge thatwe've engaged in is going to have much of an impact," said SenateMinority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Obama initially offered his stimulus plan as a way to put peopleback to work, a promise that 3.5 million jobs would be saved orcreated.

The administration's predictions that unemployment wouldrise no higher than 8 percent already have been shattered, leavingObama's advisers to caution that job growth takes time, even asrecovery spending intensifies.

Federal agencies will release billions of stimulus dollars tostates in the coming months.

Health and Human Services will provide funding for 1,129 healthcenters to provide expanded service for 300,000 patients; Interiorwill begin improvements on 107 national parks; Veterans Affairswill start work on 90 medical centers in 38 states; the JusticeDepartment will fund 5,000 law enforcement jobs; the AgricultureDepartment will begin 200 new rural waste and water systemprojects; and the Environmental Protection Agency will begin oraccelerate the cleanup of 20 Superfund sites.

At the same time federal money for these projects is released,the nation's unemployment rate likely will continue to increase,said Austan Goolsbee, a member of the White House Council ofEconomic Advisers.

"I don't think there's any question it's going to be a roughpatch not just in the immediate term, but for a little bit oftime," Goolsbee said Sunday, "because you've got to turn theeconomy around, and jobs and job growth tend to come after you turnthe economy around. So it's likely going to be a little higher."

Obama senior adviser David Axelrod argues that the stimulusprogram is working and points to fewer jobs lost in May than themonth before as a hopeful sign of economic recovery. Improvementsin unemployment numbers naturally come later, he said.

"It's going to take some time for these unemployment numbers toturn around, for the momentum to completely stop and turn in theother direction," Axelrod said. "It feels as if we're moving andthe stimulus package now is not nearly done, it's just really atits beginnings."

Goolsbee spoke on " Fox News Sunday;" Axelrod was interviewedon CNN's "State of the Union."


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