Washington (CNN) – One of President Obama’s top economic advisers suggested Sunday that the economy still has a ways to go to turn around a bleak unemployment situation. At the same time, Lawrence Summers suggested that the White House’s efforts were being stymied by Republican opposition on Capitol Hill.
Watch: Summers on jobs
The economy gained 162,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department announced Friday. But even with that growth – which constituted the best monthly jobs report in three years – the national unemployment rate held steady at 9.7 percent.
Related on CNNMoney.com: March jobs report shows growth
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Lawrence Summers, Director of the White House National Economic Council, said on CNN’s State of the Union. “We’ve inherited a terrible situation, the most pressing economic problems since the Great Depression in our country. It is the president’s preoccupation to put people back to work.”
While acknowledging that the economic outlook is not where the White House would like it to be, Summers pointed out that the economy is doing better now than it was this time last year in terms of job growth, exports, and availability of credit.
“The trend has turned,” Summers told CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, “but to get back to the surface, we’ve got a long way to go and that’s what we’re fighting to do every day.”
In order to try to bring the unemployment rate down, Summers said the administration is taking five steps: (1) continuing to implement the approximately $800 billion stimulus package passed soon after President Obama took office, (2) implementing new measures including tax credits intended to encourage businesses to hire the unemployed, (3) additional support to protect workers in state and local government like teachers and firemen, (4) providing incentives for small businesses to expand, and (5) providing incentives to create “the new energy economy” that includes a focus on energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy.
Asked why the administration did not seem to be pointing to any new proposals intended to battle unemployment, Summers suggested that some of the White House’s economic agenda was being held hostage by Republicans in Congress.
“It is unacceptable,” he said of the 9.7 percent national unemployment rate. “And we’ve put forth a whole set of proposals on which - the opposition in Congress has not allowed them to pass.” Summers pointed out that many of the economic proposals favored by the White House have already been passed by the House but not yet by the Senate.
“We are not complacent. We are not standing still. We are fighting to implement the programs that have already been legislated, to actually legislate the other programs that have been put forward, and to put forward new proposals,” he said.
Asked specifically whether the White House thought congressional Republicans were responsible for holding up job growth, Summers replied that there are important steps that would help with unemployment that are waiting on action by Congress.
“I can tell you that the majority of Congress is ready to go on those pieces of legislation,” he said.