The US economy according to the White House

THE Economic Report of the President, released on Thursday, frames Barack Obama’s agenda to overhaul the corporate-tax code, boost infrastructure spending, approve new trade agreements and improve worker-friendly labour policies as the best way to boost the nation’s economic output and productivity.

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Obama delivers remarks at the armed services farewell in honor of Hagel in Virginia

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No time to read more than 400 pages?

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Here are highlights from the report.

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1. The unemployment rate has fallen faster than expected, but there are still scars in the labour market. It stood at 5.6% at the end of 2014, a level many economists didn’t expect to reach for at least another year. That’s due, in part, to the expectation that more workers would return to the labour force — people who don’t have jobs and aren’t actively looking for them aren’t counted as unemployed.

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Two measures of labour slack — the number of people who are working part-time jobs but say they would prefer full-time work, and the share of those unemployed for more than six months — showed considerable improvement last year. Yet they remain historically high.

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Thursday’s report shows that over the past quarter-century, recessions have exhibited higher levels of long-term unemployment and slower declines in the share of involuntary part-time workers.

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2. Americans are producing much more energy, even as they consume less of it. One big surprise of the past decade has been the drop in energy use. Total petroleum consumption is down 21% from its 2005 peak. Meanwhile, increased production of natural gas, oil and biofuels has made the US the largest producer of those fuels in the world.

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3. Workers are receiving less on-the-job training. Demand appears to be growing for high-skilled workers. This partly helps explain the earnings premium for college-educated workers. But employers appear to be offering less training than in the 1990s, the report says, and this could be contributing to inequality.

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4. Wages have stagnated throughout the current recovery for the bottom 90% of income earners. The report emphasises how family lives have changed over the last half-century as more women have entered the workforce.

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Labour-force participation for prime-age women has ticked down over the past five years, even as other advanced economies have seen increases. The Obama administration has put greater emphasis on paid leave and flexible workplace policies in part because increasing the number of two-earner households is an obvious way to boost stagnant wages.

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The report also cites a study that shows a sizeable increase in the number of fathers in dual-income households who report work-family conflict. “For men, they’re still struggling more with how they’re going to reconcile their dual demands,” said Betsey Stevenson, a member of the Council of Economic Advisers.

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5. Because the US economy appears to have momentum, the biggest risks could loom abroad. China, for example, is attempting to rebalance its economy towards domestic consumption. One concern that the report flags is the growth in credit to nonfinancial businesses and households outside of the government-regulated banking sector.

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“A further economic slowdown in China would have ramifications for the global economy,” especially other emerging markets, the report says.