Leaders must put Americans back to work

With America still facing a sluggish economy and great uncertainty Washington lawmakers must not slip into a do nothing campaign mode before the elections in November. Instead they must get busy working with the business community to put Americans back to work.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donahue says that American business is improving but it is doing so very slowly. Most recent job numbers have been positive with unemployment going down to 8.5% which is a slight improvement but there are still 23 million Americans unemployed or working part-time.

In order to put more Americans back to work the economy must grow faster than it currently is, however Donohue feels that the economy could slow down during the first part of 2012.

He outlined the Chamberís 2012 policy agenda which would expand the economy, create jobs and boost Americanís competitiveness as follows: (1) Produce American energy and rebuild the infrastructure. (2) Expand trade, investment and tourism. (3) Advance regulatory and legal reform. (4) Develop an innovation agenda. (5) Control spending and reform entitlements.

Donohue says that the real roadblock to stronger economic growth, better jobs and more opportunities for all Americans is lack of leadership in Washington. ďWhat we can plainly see is an urgent need for leaders in every sector and at every level who are dedicated to meeting the Countryís challenges, solving problems and helping America achieve her full potential. Real leaders donít ignore realities. They donít sweep problems under the rug. They donít point fingers. They donít divide us. They seek to unite us,Ē he said.

As we move into 2012 the question that is yet to be answered concerns the economic growth that our economy will see during the year. During 2011 the economy grew at a rate of less than 2% according to the U.S. Chamber. During the first half of 2011 the growth rate was less than 1% due to rising oil prices and other events around the world. Then it picked up in the second half of the year to almost 2%.

According to figures given by the Chamber holiday shopping was better in December 2011 compared to 2010 with sales up over 3%. Other helpful trends were the resumption of banksí lending to businesses and corporate profits that plunged during the recession expected to improve.

Boosted in part by tax incentives investment in equipment and software was one of the contributors to GDP growth in 2011. Investment in equipment and software should remain solid during 2012 and we should get a boost from investments in structures.

Another good trend over the past year has been the improvement in net exports caused by a weaker dollar and a reduced demand for imports. Export growth was not strong in 2011 because the world economy slowed. As consumption continues to pickup in 2012 imports should increase which could slow the growth of exports.

Job creation began to increase last September and an average of 156,000 new jobs was created each month through December. The job growth has affected the unemployment rate which dropped nationwide from 9.1% in August to 8.5% in December. Another factor has been the decline in the labor force participation rate.

Our economy is currently showing signs of strength and we are guardedly optimistic about continued positive growth this year, a U.S. Chamber official said.