German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Obama meet with reporters… (Jim Young, Reuters )
Reporting from Washington — President Obama acknowledged the nation remains "skittish" about the state of the economy, but said he is confident in avoiding a second recession.
"I'm not concerned about a double-dip recession. I am concerned about the fact that the recovery that we're on is not producing jobs as quickly as I want it to happen," he said Tuesday.
During a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the East Room of the White House, the president said that if not for "body blow" of the 2008 economic meltdown, the most recent poor jobs report might have been viewed less ominously.
"Recovery is going to be uneven," he said. "There are going to be times where we are making progress but people are still skittish and nervous, and the markets get skittish and nervous. And so they pull back because they are still thinking of the traumas of two and a half years ago."
The Labor Department reported Friday that payrolls grew by only 54,000 in May, less than half what's needed to keep pace with growth in the working-age population. The unemployment rate ticked up to 9.1%, an ominous indicator for a president heading into a re-election campaign.
Obama said Tuesday that it was not clear whether the data was indicative of "a one month episode or a longer trend."
"Obviously, we're experiencing some headwinds, gas prices probably being most prominent," he said. "It has enormous impact on family budgets and on the psychology of consumers. And so we are taking a range of steps to make sure that we've got an energy policy that can bring some stability to world oil prices."
Germany's Merkel, on an official visit to the White House, was asked if she was concerned about the prospect of the United States defaulting on its national debt, the subject of vigorous debate between both parties in Washington.
"We in Europe have our hands full already with what we need to do, and I'm absolutely convinced that as we shoulder our responsibility and meet our responsibilities, so will the United States of America," she said.