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Jobs report puts focus on sequester

WASHINGTON, April 7 (UPI) — Democrats say the federal budget sequester is to blame for a disappointing U.S. March jobs report but Republicans blame President Barack Obama’s policies.

The Labor Department reported Friday the economy added 88,000 jobs in March, well below what economists had forecast.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the jobs report showed the sequester — virtually across-the-board federal spending cuts that took effect March 1 — has already begun to hurt the economy. Carney charged congressional Republicans were not taking the necessary measures to end the sequester because they wanted “to embrace it as a political victory and a home run,” The Hill reported Saturday

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, “Republicans prefer sequesters that undermine our economic growth and [Rep. Paul] Ryan [R-Wis.] budgets that would cost jobs and threaten the economic security of seniors and working families.”

Republicans countered the employment report showed regulations and tax hikes were strangling the economy, and renewed their charge that the Affordable Care Act has added uncertainly to the economy.

“Our economy is not creating enough jobs, and too many working men and women are still in the unemployment line,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said he doubted the sequester was responsible for the disappointing jobs report. Nearly five years after a near meltdown in the financial sector and the collapse of the housing market, Zandi said the March report shows the economy is “still not gaining traction.”

Other analysts said the decline in retail jobs suggested the expiration of the payroll tax cut at the end of 2012 was slowing the economy by cutting into workers’ purchasing power.

Keith Hall, a senior research fellow at George Mason University and former director of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said Washington gridlock on fiscal issues was causing uncertainty in the economy.

Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation, said persistent infighting in Washington on such issues as the debt ceiling and the sequester are holding the economy back.

“If we don’t do something big, the economy will continue to drag,” he said.

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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