When it comes to reducing the nation's historically high unemployment rate, the stakes have never been higher for the Obama administration. With more Americans out of work -- and for longer periods -- jobless workers are understandably anxious about their futures.
Taming that anxiety and finding ways to put more people back to work is at the heart of discussions at Thursday's White House jobs summit. President Barack Obama and members of his administration are meeting with private-sector leaders to hear their ideas about how to get the nation's job-creation engine running again. Ahead of the gathering, a number of experts and pundits have offered up several suggestions for how to address the jobs issue.
First, there's work-sharing, a concept that allows a company to avoid layoffs by reducing the number of days employees work. The arrangement eliminates the need to cut positions and leaves employers in a good position to ramp up business when the economy turns around since they already have trained work force on hand. Seventeen states have some form of work-sharing program, the Associated Press reports.
Germany has successfully used job-sharing to keep its national unemployment rate at 7.5%, far below the U.S. level of 10.2%, according to npr.org. (The Labor Department will release fresh data about November's employment picture on Friday. The White House has said it expects the rate to edge higher, while many analysts expect the rate to remain steady.)
To avoid layoffs, the German government subsidizes employers to keep workers on the payroll by reducing their hours and wages, npr.org says. It's an idea that both conservatives and liberals see merit in.
Tax Rebates, TARP Shifts and Access to Credit
Washington can also stimulate job creation by offering tax credits to encourage employers to hire more workers, the website of The Christian Science Monitor says. One estimate says 5 million jobs could be created over the next two years if Congress were to approve legislation that would offer tax refunds of up to 15% of new-wage costs.
Further, csmonitor.com says, more effort is needed to repair channels to get credit flowing to small businesses that broke down last year as the financial crisis escalated. Expanding loan programs could help more entrepreneurs find the funds they need to start new businesses or expand existing ones.
The AFL-CIO suggests that funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program should be directed away from big banks and given to community banks to use to make loans to small and medium-sized businesses. About half of the $787 billion allocated for the program remains. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would like to see the administration use that money to fund a new jobs-creation initiative, The Wall Street Journal reports online.
While there's no shortage of ideas, there is no guarantee that any of them will work -- especially if the economy slips into a double-dip recession, which Obama and some economists fear may occur if the nation's deficit isn't tamed.
Further, with Congress debating issues as large as health-care insurance reform and ways to combat global warming, businesses may prefer to postpone hiring until the details of those proposals and others are finally hammered out and signed into law.