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Congress works on new jobs bill

WASHINGTON — Troubled by the rising jobless rate, President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress are assembling a jobs package that would devote billions of dollars to projects meant to put people back on payrolls in 2010 and keep them working.

Discussions over the scale of the bill are fluid, but lawmakers said the intent was to move swiftly and get a jobs bill to Obama's desk as early as January.

The renewed push to create jobs is driven by a recognition that the $787 billion stimulus program enacted in February is not a sufficient remedy for an unemployment rate that stands at 10.2 percent. Nearly 16 million people were unemployed as of October, and 3.49 million jobs have been lost since January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The stimulus boosted employment but "did it in a way that was not as highly visible as a lot of people would like," said Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, one of the House members devising the jobs bill. "It did so in somewhat of a scattershot approach — a job here and a job there, trickled out over time.... Far too many Americans are without a job, and far too many more are worried about what tomorrow is going to bring."

Congressional aides said the new program could cost tens of billions of dollars. Democratic House members who were disappointed that the stimulus wasn't larger said they will press for a substantial spending plan this time.

Lawmakers are considering myriad ways to accelerate job growth. In interviews, they mentioned road projects that can be counted on to employ people right away; loans to small businesses; incentives to companies that agree to manufacture products in the U.S.; and special partnerships in which government tries to avert private-sector layoffs by picking up a share of employee wages.

House members also are considering a plan to funnel aid to state and local governments with the assurance the money would be used to preserve jobs. Senate aides said the jobs plan would give priority to labor-intensive "brick-and-mortar" projects.

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