Obama urges Cabinet to redouble economic efforts

WASHINGTON (AP) ? The debt crisis behind him, President Barack Obama challenged his Cabinet on Wednesday to redouble its efforts to strengthen a “weakened” economy and get people back to work. His spokesman, meanwhile, batted away any suggestion the nation was headed back into recession.

The president said the economy’s weakness was “partly because of things we couldn’t control,” such as the Japanese earthquake and the debt problems in Europe. And he said the long argument over raising the U.S. debt ceiling also had had a negative effect on the economy.

Obama told his Cabinet to “focus on what matters most to the American people, and that is, how are we going to put people back to work; how are we going to raise their wages; increase their security; how are we going to make sure that they recover fully, as families and as communities, from the worst recession we’ve had since the Great Depression.”

At the same time, Obama’s spokesman discounted talk that the economy may be headed back into recession, despite recent concerns of economists.

Press Secretary Jay Carney said there is no question that economic growth and job creation have slowed over the past half year.

But, Carney told a White House briefing, “We do not believe that there is a threat of a double-dip recession.”

The recession that began in December 2007 officially ended in summer 2009 and the economy has seen growth since then. However, that growth has slowed to a trickle in recent months.

Even with all of the recent difficulties, Carney said: “We believe the economy will continue to grow.”