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Obama speeds projects to create, save 600,000 jobs

President Barack Obama said he expected to create or save 600,000 jobs over the next 100 days by expediting 10 major projects funded by a huge stimulus package that Congress passed in February.

“We have a long way to go on our road to recovery, but we are going the right way,” Obama said. His statement came three days after a Labor Department report showed the US unemployment rate rose to 9.4% in May, even though the pace of monthly job losses slowed to 345,000.

“We will not grow complacent or rest. Surely and steadily, we will turn this economy around,” Obama said.

The White House said the $787 billion Recovery and Reinvestment Act has helped save or create over 150,000 in the first 100 days since it was signed.

That is a fraction of the 6 million jobs lost since the worst US recession in decades began in December 2007.

The White House estimates the recovery legislation that Democrats pushed through Congress with little Republican support will create 3 million to 4 million jobs by early 2011.

But a senior Republican who hopes his party can loosen the Democrats' grip on power in the 2010 congressional election, said the legislation would do little more than drive the country deeper into debt.

“I'm very skeptical that the spending binge that we're on is going to produce much good and, even if it does, anytime soon,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Friday. “I think the economy is just as likely to begin to recover on its own, wholly aside from this, before much of this has an impact,” McConnell said.

The accelerated projects announced on Monday included 200 new waste and water systems in rural areas and the creation of 125,000 summer youth jobs. Work will also begin on maintenance and construction projects at 98 airports and over 1,500 highway locations and in the 107 US national parks.

The White House has already committed over $135 billion of stimulus package funds to various stimulus projects, but only about $44 billion of that has been paid out.

“We're going to get more dollars out the door, more shovels into the ground and more money into the pockets of workers and families who need it most,” said Vice President Joe Biden, who was due at a Cabinet meeting on Monday to formally present Obama with the plan to expedite projects.

A little more than one-third of the $787 billion Recovery Act was tax relief, with the next biggest chunk dedicated to relief for state and local governments to keep health and education programs in place without raising taxes. (Reuters)