The economy is gaining momentum and the Democrat-passed stimulus package is only just beginning to pay dividends to the American workforce, President Obama's advisers said Sunday, defending the administration against GOP accusations that the stimulus is falling flat.
Republicans had slammed the $787 billion stimulus as ineffective following Friday's Labor Department report showing that unemployment hit 9.4 percent in May, the highest in 25 years.
The Obama administration, which recently has sought to highlight the achievements of the stimulus bill's first 100 days in action, is kicking into high gear. It is expected to announce plans Monday to speed up the release of remaining stimulus funds over the next 100 days by targeting the best places to spend the cash.
To the naysayers, White House advisers are urging patience and asking them to look on the bright side of the stats.
"It's a substantial improvement from what the job losses have been," White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, told "FOX News Sunday," noting that the 345,000 jobs lost in May was far less than in prior months. "That's the smallest job loss since September of last year."
Senior White House adviser David Axelrod told CBS' "Face the Nation" the economy is showing clear signs of improvement.
"The hopeful thing about those numbers was that the job loss in the last month was considerably less than it had been in previous months and considerably less than had been expected. ... There are signs of progress," he said. "The stimulus itself has produced hundreds of thousands of jobs and projects all over this country. And it is just gaining momentum now. So I believe that it will be part of that solution as we proceed through the next few months."
Economists said in February when the stimulus passed that job growth would probably lag behind overall recovery, and Axelrod attempted to remind critics of those forecasts.
"I think that the full impact of this stimulus is yet to be ... felt," he said. "It's going to take more than a few months to turn it around."
But he said the administration is "not in any way satisfied with where we are."
Goolsbee, too, balanced his positive forecasts with a grim assessment of where the economy is today.
"The economy has clearly gotten substantially worse from the initial predictions that were being made not just by the White House but by all of the private sector," he said, calling Friday's numbers, "encouraging, but really bad."
"I don't think there's any question it's going to be a rough patch not just in the immediate term, but for a little bit of time, because you've got to turn the economy around, and jobs and job growth tend to come after you turn the economy around," he said.
Such warnings are doubtful to quiet Republican criticism -- only three Republicans in all of Congress supported the stimulus package when it came for a vote.
They are bolstered by the stimulus plan's failure to stem job loss in the short term in the way the administration had predicted.
The Obama administration warned at the height of the stimulus debate that without the recovery package, the jobless rate would hit 8.8 percent in 2010 -- advisers had said the recovery package could hold unemployment to 7 percent. But that rate hit 8.9 percent in April, and then 9.4 percent last month.
House Minority Leader John Boehner said Friday that the administration was "ripping off the American people."
Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, told "FOX News Sunday," the deficits the administration is producing represent the "most serious" the country has ever seen.
"I can tell you if we get to a $20 trillion debt, this country -- and we're headed down that road -- our ability to pay and service that debt is going to be questioned all over the world," he said.
Vice President Joe Biden said Friday that the stimulus is funding 3,600 projects and that $11 billion has been spent to date on highway construction. But while he argued the package was having an impact, he said, "less bad is not how we're going to measure success."
"We will not be satisfied until we are adding jobs on a monthly basis," Biden said.