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Obama talks jobs at Cabinet meeting

From NBC's Athena Jones
In a Cabinet meeting Monday afternoon, President Obama acknowledged fledgling economic growth had not yet improved things on the jobs front and previewed a summit next week aimed at helping find ways to spur job creation.

The nation's unemployment rate hit 10.2 percent last month, the highest number in decades. The proportion of jobless in more than a dozen states remains in the double digits, with Michigan in the worst shape at 15.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Our economy is growing for the first time in more than a year, and we know that economic growth is a prerequisite for job growth," Obama said. "But, having said that, what I emphasize today is we cannot sit back and be satisfied, given the extraordinarily high unemployment levels that we've seen. We have only taken the first step in curing our economy and making sure that it is moving on the right track and I will not rest until businesses are investing again and businesses are hiring again and people have work again."

Obama's critics have repeatedly pointed to the jobs numbers to argue the $787 billion stimulus package has done much to increase the federal deficit and little to relieve struggling families who need jobs. The president argues that spending was necessary to avert a total economic collapse.

He asked his Cabinet to come up with good ideas for boosting job growth in advance of a Dec. 3rd jobs summit that will bring together representatives from non-profits, labor, academics, CEOs, small business owners and financial experts to discuss how to jump-start hiring, which is typically a lagging indicator.

"We don't want to wait," Obama said, referring to businesses hiring new workers. "We want to see if we can accelerate it and I'm confident that we're going to be able to do it because I've got as good of a Cabinet as I think any president has ever had."

Creating jobs will be particularly challenging, Obama said, because many businesses have adjusted to the downturn by learning to do more with less in order to eke out a profit. Their increased productivity means they need fewer workers.

He said opening more markets to U.S. exports and investments in infrastructure like high-speed rail and green technology were ways to put people back to work and that innovation, productive workers, dynamism and entrepreneurship were "core strengths" of the U.S. economy that would serve it well over the long term, notwithstanding the current crisis.