White House Economic Adviser: Jobs Picture is 'Still Terrible'

A top White House economic adviser said Sunday "you'll get no argument from" her on the need to improve the miserable jobs picture.

Council of Economic Advisers chief Christina Romer said it's devastating that some workers have been unemployed for two years and that job losses were continuing nearly a year after passage of the so-called stimulus bill.

The jobless rate remained at 10 percent in December as 660,000 people said they had left the workforce. But Romer couched the news by saying the siphoning of jobs from the market has slowed.

"In the first quarter of 2009, when we first came in, we were losing on average 691,000 jobs per month. With these new numbers in the fourth quarter, we were losing 69,000 jobs," she said. "It's still terrible. We're still losing jobs, and we absolutely have to go from losing any jobs at all to adding them at a robust rate."

Romer wouldn't predict what the unemployment rate will be in the fall, when members of Congress face re-election, but said it is "still a very realistic estimate" that job growth could begin in the spring.

She added that she wants to work on convincing firms that are considering hiring to take the plunge.

Romer also appeared to back a House effort to pump an additional $75 billion in federal spending into the struggling economy and pointed to targeted programs like longer COBRA health insurance coverage and "cash for caulkers" -- energy saving retrofits -- as ways to expand growth.

"The sense that we need to do more is overwhelming," she said.