WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is celebrating Labor Day in Detroit, previewing his ideas for job creation and economic growth at a rally with thousands of supportive labor union members.
Obama’s speech at an annual event sponsored by the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO was serving as a dress rehearsal for the jobs address he’ll deliver to a joint session of Congress on Thursday night.
The president’s appearance follows last Friday’s dismal jobs report, which showed that employers added no jobs in August. It was the first time since 1945 that the government reported a net job change of zero. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, held steady at 9.1 percent.
The disappointing report sparked new fears of a second recession and injected fresh urgency into efforts by Obama to help get millions of unemployed people back into the labor market — and help improve his chances of getting re-elected.
Polls show the economy and jobs are the public’s top concerns. Public approval of Obama’s stewardship of the economy hit a new low of 26 percent in a recent Gallup survey.
The unemployment report also gave Obama’s Republican critics, including those who want to challenge him in next year’s presidential election, fresh ammunition to pound him with.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called the report disappointing, unacceptable and “further proof that President Obama has failed.” Romney is scheduled to outline his own job-creation plan in a Tuesday speech in the battleground state of Nevada.
Obama’s plan is expected to include a combination of individual and business tax credits and public works spending. He will also press lawmakers for swift action on those proposals.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said Monday morning that both political parties should get behind Obama’s efforts to improve the hiring environment across the country, saying “we do need everyone to be on board.”
She said in an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show that Obama “is very mindful of what the needs and concerns are of those individuals who have been out of work for so long.”
But Solis also said the jobless have a responsibility to themselves to seek training in new skills, if necessary, to better prepare themselves for the kinds of jobs that are available in today’s economy.
“We need to focus like a laser beam on this right away,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Solis said Obama later this week will talk about a “safety net” for Americans looking for work and “providing tax breaks for businesses as well as working class families and also infrastructure investments.”
Obama said last week that “these are bipartisan ideas that ought to be the kind of proposals that everybody can get behind, no matter what your political affiliation might be. So my hope and expectation is that we can put country before party and get something done for the American people.”
Obama spent part of the holiday weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland “putting the finishing touches” on the proposals and the speech, said spokesman Jay Carney.
“That process continues over the next few days, but he’s very far along,” Carney said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.