Video: White House shifts on jobs numbers

By David Gregory Chief White House correspondent
NBC News
updated 2/18/2004 8:02:57 PM ET 2004-02-19T01:02:57

Creating jobs is so important to the president he mentions it as a top priority at nearly every appearance, “We need to act to make sure there are more jobs at home, and people are more likely to retain a job.”

Since Mr. Bush took office, 2.2-million jobs have been lost.  But things are looking good, the President argues, largely because of the tax cuts he pushed through Congress.

So good, in fact, that last week the president issued an economic report which predicts that the nation would add 2.6-million jobs by the end of this year.

But White House sources say there is disagreement within the administration that neither Commerce Secretary Don Evans nor Treasury Secretary John Snow ever endorsed the prediction which was made by the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Even though Snow himself made a similar prediction about job growth last October, he's now backing away - telling the New York Times, "I think we are going to create a lot of jobs; how many I don't know." Snow added that economic models are, "Not without a range of error."

Liberal-leaning critics on the budget say the White House prediction was fantasy.  ”The reason that the White House has been slow to admit that this isn’t a typical recovery is because they don’t want to admit that their tax cut policies are not producing the jobs that they promised,” according to Isaac Shapiro of the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities.

Wednesday the president also sidestepped the 2.6-million job forecast, “I’m pleased by the fact that since august there's been 366,000 new jobs, in one survey… but I'm mindful there are still people looking for work.”

The White House has been in hot water over the jobs issue for more than a week now.  Last week, the President's chief economist, Gregory Mankiw, suggested that United States jobs sent overseas was good for the economy in the long run. It was an argument heavily criticized by both Democrats and Republicans.  Tuesday, Mankiw was forced to distance himself from the remark.

These missteps may prove costly for the president whose reelection prospects may depend whether his record of job creation improves.

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