President Barack Obama turned his attention to the state of the U.S. economy Monday, in a statement issued at the White House to underscore challenges ahead. In the wake of recent disappointing economic news, the president met with advisers and then spoke to the media to reinforce his commitment to ensuring progress made so far in the economic recovery is not lost.
He said Sunday the economy is not expanding fast enough to trigger a more rapid decline in unemployment. Addressing media gathered in the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Obama did not refer specifically to recent pessimistic news about economic growth. He acknowledged, however, that Americans still face big challenges, despite steps his administration has taken to spur growth and bring back jobs.
"While we have taken a series of measures and come a long way since then, the fact is that too many businesses are still struggling, too many Americans are still looking for work, and too many communities are far from being whole again," said President Obama.
Last week, the Department of Commerce downgraded its growth assessment for the second quarter of this year, from 2.4 percent to 1.6 percent.
Amid ongoing fears of a so-called "double dip" recession, the news was seen as another indication that recovery may have stalled, and it was accompanied by other news about slumping home sales.
Unemployment has been stuck at a stubborn 9.5 percent, with hundreds of thousands of Americans struggling in the category of the long-term unemployed - those unable to find jobs for six months or more.
During the summer months, President Obama has sought to focus attention on economic progress, such as encouraging signs of recovery in the U.S. auto industry.
With U.S. lawmakers focused on campaigning for mid-term congressional elections in November, there is little chance Congress would move in the remainder of this year on any new economic stimulus if the president proposed it.
Nevertheless, Mr. Obama says his economic team will identify additional measures he says could make a difference in promoting economic growth and hiring in the short-term.
One of those is a tax incentive and lending bill to help small businesses, which the president says has been "held hostage" by Republicans in the Senate.
"Unfortunately this bill has been languishing in the Senate for months, held up by a partisan minority that will not even allow it to go to a vote. That makes no sense. This bill is fully paid for, it will not add to the deficit, and there is no reason to block it besides pure partisan politics," said President Obama.
The president says no single step will be the solution to reversing damage to the U.S. economy, adding that doing so will require what he called a full-scale effort combining short and long-term measures.
With so much riding on his handling of the economy, including Democrat's prospects in the November mid-term elections, the president faces continued low-approval numbers. Two recent polls - by Gallup and Rasmussen - showed 43 percent and 46 percent of those surveyed approving of the way the president is doing his job.