Obama: Long-term joblessness a concern

Labor may feel crunch 'for some time,' despite 'some return to normalcy' in financial markets.

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- President Barack Obama, speaking to a high-level advisory panel of economic experts, said Wednesday that U.S. financial markets had improved recently but he was concerned the country would face higher unemployment for some time.

"We're pleased that we've seen some progress, that there is some return to normalcy in certain aspects of the financial markets," Obama said at a White House meeting of his 16-member Economic Recovery Advisory Board headed by former Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker.

"We expect that there is going to be some stabilizing in the economy ... will begin to turn again," he added. "The concern that we have is that even in a stabilized situation there is the prospect of higher unemployment for some time to come."

Obama told the group he remained committed to looking beyond the immediate crisis and wanted to put the economy on a sounder footing by promoting clean energy and "green jobs" to help spur economic recovery in the longer term.

The president said the House Energy and Commerce Committee was "making more progress than we would have ever expected" on climate change legislation.

He led the panel, which includes GE (GE, Fortune 500) chief executive Jeffrey Immelt and Caterpillar (CAT, Fortune 500) CEO Jim Owens, in a discussion of green energy issues, including proposals for reducing greenhouse gases emissions with a market-based cap and trade system.

Panel member Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO labor federation, said there was great potential for the United States to lead in job-creating clean energy exports but voiced concern that free trade agreements the administration was considering would "disadvantage" American business in global competition.

First quarterly meeting

Obama announced the creation of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board in February, but its work had been entirely behind-the-scenes until Wednesday's first quarterly meeting, which was carried live by Internet feed on the White House Web site.

Volcker's role in advising Obama is of keen interest to many on Wall Street, where the 81-year-old former central banker remains a towering figure known for breaking the back of runaway inflation during the 1980s.

Volcker has continued to weigh in on public policy matters since leaving the Fed in 1987. He was a key adviser to Obama during the campaign and speaks frequently with White House officials on financial-regulatory and other issues.

But he has vented some frustration to associates about his level of access within the White House economic power center.

Obama's inner circle on economic policy consists of National Economic Council director Lawrence Summers, a former Treasury secretary; current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; Christina Romer, chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers; and Austan Goolsbee, a longtime Obama adviser who sits on the Council of Economic Advisers and is also chief of staff on the Volcker panel.

The economic recovery panel, which includes Democrats and Republicans and people from business, academia, public policy and labor union backgrounds, is intended to give Obama some outside perspective on economic issues. To top of page

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