The Economy Today: “Green” Shoots?

A roundup of national and regional economic headlines

The economy may still be in the doldrums, but the Obama administration is putting on its best happy face, The New York Times and The Washington Post report today. A report released yesterday by the president’s Council of Economic Advisors forecasts strong job growth in the health and “green” sectors through 2016, along with an increasing emphasis on higher education. The report also defends President Obama’s claim that the stimulus package will create or save 3.5 million jobs—though, as the Post points out, “its predictions were partly based on 2007 Labor Department data put together before the worst of the crisis hit the economy.”

The major papers also take a look at the newest dilemma confronting federal regulators: whether to bail out CIT, a private New York-based company that is one of the country’s largest lenders to small businesses. The century-old company is in peril despite earlier government aid, and while large, it probably doesn’t qualify as “too big to fail.” But CIT’s troubles pose a political quandary for Obama and his appointees, one that’s spelled out in greater detail by the Times: After bailing out so many high-flying financiers, can the government allow a company that provides credit to small businesses go belly-up?

As for those high-flying financiers, all the major news sites report that Goldman Sachs reported second quarter profits of $3.44 billion this morning, beating even optimistic forecasts.

Elsewhere, papers continue to try to track the impact of the federal stimulus package. USA Today looks at the big picture in a long story that basically recaps two weeks’ worth of debate about whether the stimulus was effective and whether another will be needed. The story’s most interesting material is right in the lede, where reporter David J. Lynch describes how stimulus funds are facilitating affordable housing projects in Indianapolis that stalled when banks, which had traditionally bought tax credits bestowed on developers who built the projects, were crippled. It’s a different, and more complicated, use of stimulus funds than the road construction projects featured in many stories.

Regional papers, meanwhile, flag the use of stimulus funds around the country. The Oregonian notes that unemployment in its home state appears to have flattened out at more than 12 percent, and gives its top quote to a local construction worker who’s hopeful that the arrival of stimulus funds means better days. The Greensboro News & Record reports that stimulus funds have saved more than 100 jobs in Guilford County, N.C. schools. And Newsday reports that the first stimulus-funded roadway project has broken ground on Long Island, giving Gov. David Paterson an opportunity to praise his fellow Democrat in the White House but sparking complaints from contractors that funds haven’t arrived sooner.

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.