Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Thursday painted a picture of a solid U.S. economic recovery, but pressed Congress to pass further legislation to boost the recovery, including immigration reform, a farm bill, and a budget.
"When you look at the United States, while we still have work to do to speed up growth and create more jobs, we have been making significant progress," Lew said.
Lew spoke at a Commerce Department summit designed to woo foreign direct investment into the country, and his speech was a sales pitch to business executives and economic development professionals from across the U.S. and around the world. Perhaps for that reason, Lew's remarks read both as as a view of the U.S. and global economies, as they were billed in the conference agenda, as well as a sales pitch.
Lew took a broad view of the recovery, touting how far the nation's economy has come since the Great Recession, adding 7.6 million jobs in nearly four years and 2 million within the past year alone.
Still, the U.S. economy is showing some evidence of short-term problems. The September jobs report suggests labor market growth appears to have slowed, and many economists point to sequestration cuts enacted earlier this year as one cause of that deceleration.
In addition, just weeks after the end of a 16-day partial government shutdown and the threat of the U.S. hitting the debt ceiling and defaulting on its debt. Lew framed the debacle as an example of Congress getting things done.
"While the process created unnecessary anxiety, Congress proved that it can still do what is needed when it came together on a bipartisan basis just two weeks ago to reopen our government and raise the statutory debt limit," Lew said.
However, October's fiscal crisis likely subtracted several tenths of a percentage point from fourth-quarter GDP growth, economists say. In addition, it may have slowed hiring, will likely distort economic indicator readings, and it helped to send consumer confidence plummeting in October.
Lew acknowledged recent economic weakness, saying, "we are not satisfied with the current pace of job creation and economic growth," and called on Congress to take on a "pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda."
That agenda involves passing a budget that reduces the deficit while eliminating sequestration cuts, said Lew. IN addition, he asked Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and a farm bill. While the House and Senate have met this week in a conference committee to negotiate a farm bill, the Democratic-led Senate is the only house to have passed an immigration bill.