WASHINGTON --- President Obama challenged an assortment of leading business and union leaders and academics on Thursday to help him come up with innovative ideas for putting millions of Americans back to work, saying he wants the "biggest bang" for every dollar spent.
"We cannot hang back and hope for the best," Mr. Obama told a White House forum on jobs. "What I'm interested in is taking action right now."
Mr. Obama said the leading question of the day is "how do we get businesses to start hiring again" and asked his audience of about 130 guests to "bring their A-game."
But, mindful of growing anxiety about federal deficits, Mr. Obama also tempered his upbeat talk with an acknowledgment that government resources could only go so far and that it is primarily up to the private sector to create large numbers of new jobs.
After opening remarks, the guests broke into working groups to brainstorm with administration officials.
At a session named "Innovative Agenda and Green Jobs of the Future," Mr. Obama said, "Not to tip our hand too much, but one of the things I would be surprised if we don't end up moving forward on is an aggressive agenda for energy efficiency and weatherization. Because that is an area where we can get it up and running relatively quickly. You don't need new technologies."
At one point, Mr. Obama lobbied business leaders in the group to speak out during the upcoming Senate energy debate. He urged them to help make the case that the energy bill "is not a job killer but a job grower."
The forum was kicked off by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who called the present unemployment rate of 10.2 percent "a stark reminder of how much we have to do." She said the administration "will not rest" until it had been successful at job creation
Mr. Obama spoke a day ahead of the government's release of unemployment figures for November.