With the U.S. unemployment rate remaining at 10 percent in December, President Barack Obama wants to expand a government program to stimulate hiring in the alternative energy industry.
President Obama acknowledges that 85,000 Americans lost their jobs in December, and he says more work is needed to bring that number down. "The jobs numbers that were released by the Labor Department this morning are a reminder that the road to recovery is never straight, and that we have to work every single day to get our economy moving again," he said.
However, the president says progress is being made. He says the average monthly job loss in the last three months of 2009 was one-tenth of what it was in the first quarter of the year. "In fact, in November, we saw the first gain in jobs in nearly two years. Last month, however, we slipped back, losing more jobs than we gained, though the overall trend of job loss is still pointing in the right direction," he said.
To bring the jobless rate down, Mr. Obama plans more government spending to create jobs in the clean energy industry. He says giving tax breaks to companies that build equipment for solar and wind power will put more than 17,000 Americans to work, and increase the country's energy independence. "This initiative will give a much-needed boost to our manufacturing sector, by building new plants or upgrading old ones, and will take an important step toward meeting the goal I have set of doubling the amount of renewable power we use in the next three years, with wind turbines and solar panels built right here in the U.S," he said.
The $2.3 billion in tax credits would come from the $787 billion economic stimulus Congress approved early last year. Mr. Obama is also asking Congress for an additional $5 billion for the program.
The president says the United States pioneered the use of clean energy, but is being outpaced by nations around the world. "It is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy-efficient. We spearheaded the development of solar technology, but we have fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it."
While December's job loss was bigger than the administration had expected, White House officials are forecasting a net gain in jobs for the first quarter of 2010.