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Obama promises new jobs initiatives, slams GOP

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Obama pushes GOP on jobs bill
  • President Obama attacks Republicans for blocking small-business aid bill
  • Obama highlights 67,000 new private sector jobs
  • Republicans slam president for a rising overall unemployment rate
  • Obama promises new job growth initiatives next week

Washington (CNN) -- President Obama went on the offensive Friday on the politically critical issue of job creation, promising to lay out a broad package of ideas next week and slamming Senate Republicans for blocking passage of his administration's small business aid legislation.

Obama renewed his call for the languishing bill in the wake of Friday's release of new unemployment figures. The jobless rate, according to the Labor Department, rose from 9.5 percent to 9.6 percent in August.

The economy lost a total of 54,000 jobs last month. Most of the losses, however, came from the public sector as the government cut 114,000 temporary census workers. Private businesses added 67,000 jobs to their payrolls.

August was the eighth straight month that businesses added jobs, following nearly two straight years of job losses. So far this year businesses have added 763,000 workers to payrolls.

"That's positive news," Obama said at the White House, flanked by his top economic advisers. It "reflects steps we've already taken to break the back of this recession."

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But he warned, "There's no quick fix to the worst recession we've experienced since the Great Depression."

Senate Republicans, he said, were responsible for a "needless delay" in the passage of legislation designed to increase bank loans to small businesses. Specifically, the measure would set up a $30 billion lending fund to help community banks offer small businesses credit. It also would provide tax breaks to small businesses that invest in new equipment and hire unemployed workers.

The House of Representatives passed a similar bill in June. Republican opposition has focused, among other things, on the cost of the measure.

Republicans lashed back at the president, blaming him for what most observers still characterize as a weak recovery.

"Today's jobs report is a clear demonstration that the American economy still has a long way to go," said Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House minority whip.

"The policies being pursued by the White House and Democrat leaders in Washington continue to create uncertainty and fear that is inhibiting productivity, innovation and job creation."

In a statement, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said, "With 54,000 more Americans finding themselves out of work this month and unemployment rising to 9.6 percent, President Obama's 'Recovery Summer' has ended right where it began, with Americans continuing to lose their jobs and unable to find new ones."

Obama defended his decision to push the "Recovery Summer" theme.

"I don't regret the notion that we are moving forward ... because of the steps that we've taken," he told reporters. "The key point I'm making right now is that the economy is moving in a positive direction. ... We just have to speed it up."

Christina Romer, head of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, said the "Recovery Summer" theme was chosen to reflect that a large number of projects funded by the $862 billion stimulus act came to fruition -- a fact reflected in an uptick in the number of construction jobs.

Republicans have criticized the stimulus package for adding to the national debt while failing to boost economic growth sufficiently.

CNN's Paul Steinhauser and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report.