In the wake of news that the unemployment rate hit 9.4 percent in May, President Barack Obama is ramping up the $787 billion stimulus package. He announced this morning that he's asking his cabinet members to accelerate 10 major Recovery Act projects in order to create or save jobs more quickly than before. The goal is 600,000 jobs over the next 100 days.
"We have a long way to go on our road to recovery, but we are going the right way," the president said in a written statement. "Surely and steadily, we will turn this economy around."
In the first 100 days after the stimulus was signed, about 150,000 jobs were created or saved, according to projections made by the White House. By setting ambitious targets for the various departments involved in projects already picked, this push would create or save four times that number. Programs range from funding 135,000 education jobs to starting work in 107 national parks.
Along with the announcement, dubbed the "Roadmap to Recovery" by Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, the White House launched a new government website today. The site, WhiteHouse.gov/Recovery, focuses on sharing news and success stories of the stimulus package.
The attempt to put more emphasis on the stimulus comes on the heels of the Labor Department's announcement that the unemployment rate was higher in May than it has been in 25 years. That news further exposed the errors of the White House's initial predictions that it wouldn't go higher than 8 percent (it reached that mark back in February). It also invited partisan attacks, with the GOP seizing the moment to argue for the ineffectiveness of the stimulus plan. Despite the 150,000 jobs saved, the economy overall has lost more than 1.6 million since the bill was approved in February.
While Obama said that the Recovery Act would create or save 3.5 million jobs, he has been consistent in emphasizing that a full economic recovery would not be immediate. And the worse the economic news gets, the more his advisers are underlining that reality—even if they're keeping hopes high for the effects of the stimulus.