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Obama picks Krueger for panel on economy

WASHINGTON -- Facing a public deeply dissatisfied with his handling of the economy, President Barack Obama tapped a prominent labor economist yesterday to join his cadre of advisers and help steer a fall jobs agenda that will be critical to the president's re-election bid.

In nominating Alan Krueger as chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Obama gains an economist with expertise in the labor market and unemployment, a key drag on the U.S. economy and Obama's presidency.

Krueger, a former Treasury Department official and Princeton University economist, has advocated for hiring tax credits for businesses and increased government spending on infrastructure, two programs Obama aides are considering proposing this fall.

His appointment caps a makeover of Obama's economic leadership team during the past year. Several high-ranking advisers, including Lawrence Summers, Christina Romer and Austan Goolsbee, have left the administration, leaving Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as the only top official remaining from the original economic team.

Obama has often reached within his administration's ranks to fill vacant posts on the economic team, and Krueger is no exception. Though he spent last year at Princeton, he served as assistant secretary for economic policy at Treasury during Obama's first two years.

Gregory Mankiw, an economic council chairman under President George W. Bush and longtime acquaintance of Krueger, said Obama's nominee has a reputation as an analytic, data-driven economist, not as a champion for many specific programs.

While Mankiw said he believes Krueger is highly qualified for the post, he doesn't expect him to push the administration in any new directions when it comes to tackling the nation's economic and unemployment woes.

"This is more of a continuity appointment rather than a move-in-a-new-direction appointment," said Mankiw, now an economics professor at Harvard University. "I don't think the president wanted a change. He's keeping the basic structure of the team in place."

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