Story highlights

The Senate approves John Bryson's nomination as commerce secretary

He is a former CEO of the utiltity company Edison International

He replaces Gary Locke, the first Chinese-American to be U.S. ambassador to China

The Obama administration is trying to spur jobs, given a 9.1% unemployment rate

(CNN) —  

The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved the nomination of former utility executive John Bryson as commerce secretary, replacing Gary Locke.

President Barack Obama lauded the development Thursday in a press release, vowing that Bryson “will be a key member of my economic team, working with the business community to promote job creation, foster growth and help open up new markets around the world for American-made goods.”

“I believe his decades of experience both in the public and private sector have given him a clear understanding of what it takes to put America on a stronger economic footing and create jobs,’ Obama added. “I’m confident he will help us do that.”

Bryson replaces Locke, whom Obama tapped in March to replace Jon Huntsman as the U.S. ambassador to China. Huntsman, a one-time Utah governor, left to seek the Republican presidential nomination in hopes of running against his former boss.

Locke, a former two-term governor of Washington who was born to Chinese immigrant parents, is the first Chinese-American to be both commerce secretary and ambassador to China, according to U.S. government websites. He was sworn in to the latter post this summer.

Bryson served from 1990 to 2008 as CEO and chairman of Edison International, which is the parent company of Southern California Edison. He then became a senior adviser at the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company, prior to his nomination by Obama.

He joins an administration that is feverishly promoting the American Jobs Act – or, possibly, its component parts spun off in several smaller bills – in an effort to jumpstart the U.S. economy. The national employment rate is 9.1.%, with 6.2 million people qualifying as long-term unemployed, having been without a job for 27 or more weeks, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.