Sperling Becomes Latest Clinton-Era Veteran to Join Obama's Revamped Team

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WASHINGTON -- With President Obama naming Gene Sperling as his director of the National Economic Council on Friday, his revamped team of top advisers is looking much like the one Bill Clinton led during his second term in the White House when he gained the upper hand against an unfriendly Congress.

In addition to Sperling, who served as NEC director under Clinton, Obama named William Daley, a Clinton-era Commerce secretary, as his chief of staff Thursday. He also has tapped Jack Lew to replace Peter Orszag as head of the Office of Management and Budget, a job he held  under Clinton.

Obama will be relying on these veteran policy and political players to find the best strategies for working with a divided Congress to boost the economy.

"Our mission has to be to accelerate hiring and accelerate growth," Obama said during remarks at a window manufacturing plant in suburban Maryland. "That depends on making our economy more competitive."

Other changes to Obama's leadership team as the White House ramps up the president's re-election campaign include the departure of Press secretary Robert Gibbs next month to become a paid consultant to Obama's re-election campaign. Senior adviser David Axelrod will head to Chicago next month to lead the re-election campaign, with Obama's former campaign manager David Plouffe filling his role at the White House.

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The announcement coincided with the release of the December employment report, which showed that the jobless rate dropped to 9.4 percent from 9.8 percent as the economy added 103,000 jobs. That fell short of the 175,000 jobs that most analysts were expecting.

"But the trend is clear,"Obama said. "We saw 12 straight month of private sector job growth. That's the first time that's been true since 2006."

Sperling, currently a senior counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, replaces Lawrence Summers, who left the White House at the end of December to return to Harvard University after two years as NEC director.

The role gives Sperling broad oversight of the administration's economic policies as the White House contends with high unemployment and looming legislative battles on the budget and deficit.

"Few people bring the level of intelligence and sheer work ethic that Gene brings to every assignment he's ever taken," Obama said.

Sperling played a key role in the 1993 deficit reduction bill and compromised with a Republican-led Congress on the 1997 balanced budget agreement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.