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Obama nominates labor economist to head adviser group

Facing a public dissatisfied with his handling of the economy, President Obama on Monday tapped a prominent labor economist to join his group of advisers and help steer a fall jobs agenda that will be critical to the president's re-election bid.

In nominating Alan Krueger as chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Obama gains an economist with expertise in the labor market and unemployment, a key drag on the U.S. economy and Obama's presidency.

Krueger, a former Treasury Department official and Princeton University economist, has advocated for tax credits for businesses that hire people and increased government spending on infrastructure, two programs that Obama aides are considering proposing this fall.

His appointment also caps a makeover of Obama's economic team during the past year. Several high-ranking advisers, including Lawrence Summers, Christina Romer and Austan Goolsbee, have all left the administration. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is the only top official remaining from the president's original economic team.

Krueger spent last year at Princeton and served as assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department during the first two years of Obama's administration.

White House spokesman Jay Carney brushed off questions Monday about whether Krueger would bring any fresh job creation ideas to the White House, saying only that the president's nominee was the best person for the job.

"He's an excellent economist whose particular skills are more relevant than ever in the economic environment we find ourselves in," he said. "His expertise in the labor market is particularly relevant as we focus on the need to grow the economy and increase job creation."

Obama said he would rely on the economist for unvarnished guidance, not partisan political advice.

"That's more important than ever right now," Obama said. "We need folks in Washington to make decisions based on what's best for the country, not what's best for any political party or special interest."

If confirmed by the Senate, Krueger will join a White House seeking ways to boost sluggish economic growth and bring down an unemployment rate stuck above 9 percent.

A new Associated Press-GfK poll shows that 63 percent of Americans disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy. Approval of his economic performance stands at 36 percent, his worst approval rating on the issue in AP-GfK polling.

Obama has promised to outline a new round of jobs initiatives next week.

The president has already called for an extension of a payroll tax cut that expires at the end of the year and for a continuation of jobless benefits. Aides are considering other measures, including tax incentives for businesses to hire and direct infusions of government money into construction projects.

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