By TOM RAUM
WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ A stronger-than-expected April rebound in job creation and recent dramatic discoveries of vast U.S. oil and gas reserves are helping to lift the American economy out its long funk.
The economic good news is also drawing attention to the importance of private-sector innovation rather than government policy in fostering growth.
The Labor Department's report that payrolls expanded by 165,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate declined to a four-year low of 7.5 percent does not represent explosive job growth by any measure.
Yet the report offered a big sigh of relief to President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress.
It also may help blunt Republican criticism of Obama's policies and make it easier for him to give more attention to other issues on his agenda, including immigration, gun control and global warming.
At the same time, it provided the GOP with more support for their call for a smaller government and fewer regulations on business.
The recent jobs improvements were mostly driven by private-sector gains independent of action by the president and Congress.
Most legislative fiscal stimulus programs, begun in 2008 under President George W. Bush and expanded under Obama, have run their course. The Federal Reserve, however, continues to stimulate the economy by holding down interest rates and effectively printing money to buy government and mortgage-related bonds.
In fact, the report showed employer confidence about the economic outlook even in the face of new federal budget cuts. Economists widely agree that job gains would have been bigger were it not for the automatic across-the-board cuts that are beginning to take an $85 billion bite out of government spending.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that while the report had "some good news" on the jobs front, it was still important to "focus on growing our economy rather than growing more government." He said that includes "expanding our energy production."