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Obama taps Gene Sperling as new head of economic council

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Obama: 'Make those investments now'
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: President Obama names Gene Sperling as head of the National Economic Council
  • NEW: Obama says, "The trend is clear. The pace of hiring is beginning to pick up"
  • Obama earlier named Clinton Commerce Secretary Bill Daley as his new chief of staff

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama announced several new members of his economic team Friday as the administration trumpeted a falling unemployment rate.

The U.S. economy added 103,000 jobs in December, while the unemployment rate fell from 9.8% to 9.4%.

"The trend is clear." Obama said at a Maryland manufacturing facility. "The pace of hiring is beginning to pick up."

Obama noted that there have now been 12 months of private-sector job growth for the first time since 2006.

"We've got a big hole that we're digging ourselves out of," he said.

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As part of his midterm staff shakeup, the president tapped Treasury aide Gene Sperling as the new director of the National Economic Council.

Sperling, who succeeds economist Larry Summers as head of the council, currently is a counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Among other things, he helped lead the administration's tax negotiations with congressional Republicans during December's lame-duck session of Congress.

Sperling also headed the National Economic Council during the Clinton administration. Top Democrats are pointing to Obama's decision to have him head the council as another sign the president is leaning more heavily on Clinton-era veterans as he starts working with a divided Congress.

Obama named Clinton Commerce Secretary Bill Daley as his new chief of staff on Thursday.

Obama also announced Friday that current National Economic Council member Jason Furman had been promoted to the position of principal deputy director of the council as well assistant to the president for economic policy.

The president named Katharine Abraham as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers and Heather Higginbottom as deputy director of the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

CNN's Alan Silverleib and Ed Henry contributed to this report.

 
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