President Barack Obama announces that Princeton University labor economist Alan...

President Barack Obama announces that Princeton University labor economist Alan Krueger, left, has been named as top White House economist. at the White House (Aug. 29, 2011). Credit: AP

Alan B. Krueger is a smart guy and a talented economist with a wide range of interests. But he's especially known for research on the job market -- something that ought to be on the front burner in Washington just now.

That's why it's good news that President Barack Obama has nominated the Princeton professor to head the president's Council of Economic Advisers. Krueger's selection signals that the White House at last recognizes the urgent need to focus on job creation. Unemployment and underemployment remain stubbornly high, and unless America can find a way to put more people to work, our economy is likely to remain stuck in neutral -- or worse.

Krueger may have some useful ideas. His research, on such questions as whether the minimum wage reduces employment (he found that it didn't), or whether a costly private college is worth attending (it probably isn't), suggests he's anything but narrow-minded.

In a sign of the respect Krueger gets across the political spectrum, Obama's announcement yesterday was applauded by Greg Mankiw, who held the same economic post in the George W. Bush era. Given that Krueger won Senate approval as the Treasury's chief economist in 2009, a post he left the following year, the White House probably hopes he won't have much trouble with confirmation this time. Hopefully that will come soon, so the new guy can get busy stimulating employment for millions who aren't so lucky.