New York (CNNMoney.com) - Boosting employment tops the to-do list in Washington right now.
President Obama plans to focus on jobs in his State of the Union speech Wednesday night. The administration's effort will reportedly center on tax credits for small businesses, traditionally the engine of job creation.
At the same time, lawmakers are looking to introduce bills that will spur hiring in the private sector.
Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., are working on a proposal to be introduced tomorrow. The package will target four areas: Small businesses, infrastructure, clean energy, and assistance to states to keep teachers, firefighters and other public employees on the job, according to a Democratic party aide.
Meanwhile, Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, unveiled their plans to boost hiring in a New York Times op-ed piece on Wednesday.
Any company that brings on a worker who has been unemployed for at least two months will not have to pay the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax on that employee for the rest of the year, according to the plan. Employers would receive an additional $1,000 credit on their 2011 taxes for keeping the workers on the payroll continuously for a year.
"Our two-pronged approach would be a far more effective use of taxpayer dollars than other proposals under discussion, all of which could cost many times more with very little guaranteed improvement in unemployment," the senators wrote.
The White House renewed the focus on creating jobs last month, bringing together more than 100 business owners, economists and other experts for a brainstorming session with administration officials.
Soon after, the House passed a $154 billion jobs bill that would funnel more funds to infrastructure and to states. It would also extend the deadline to file for unemployment insurance and the federal Cobra subsidy through June.
They currently are set to expire at the end of next month. The administration had hoped the Senate would quickly pass the House measure, but the landscape changed after the GOP secured its 41st seat in the Senate after winning a special election in Massachusetts last week. Now, it's likely that any jobs package will have to include measures that will appeal to both Democrats and Republicans.
Unemployment, which stands at 10%, has emerged as a key indicator of the success of the Obama administration's efforts to prop up the economy after the worst downturn since the Great Depression.
White House officials say that the $862 billion stimulus package passed last February has created or saved up to 2 million jobs. They credit the effort with helping pull the nation out of the recession.
But Republicans point to the high unemployment rate as proof the administration's measures are not working. Instead, they have proposed their own job creation bill, which includes lowering payroll taxes on employers and halt regulations that impose new burdens on businesses.
"If we're going to get the economy going again, we have to allow American families and small businesses to keep more of what they earn," said Republican Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, on National Public Radio Wednesday morning. "Until there is more money in their hands, we're not going to see the economy rebound quickly."