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America's Job No. 1: A better employment rate

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Has anything tried so far created jobs?

President Obama's $787 billion Recovery Act, with its spending programs and tax cuts, has been the biggest effort. Smaller examples include tax rebates in 2008 under President Bush, programs to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, and tax credits for businesses that hire the unemployed.

The Recovery Act created some jobs directly, through spending that resulted in higher federal employment or new contracts with private firms. But the stimulus programs also aimed to help the job market by pumping money and confidence into the economy.

The Obama administration says the Recovery Act alone may have saved or created 3 million jobs, but that number is impossible to verify. Some critics argue that the impact on jobs has been negligible.

Would new efforts to fill the jobs hole take a different approach?

Yes, probably. On both the political left and right, many policy experts say it's time to put less emphasis on trying to find quick fixes and more on laying better foundations for long-run growth.

Conservatives say efforts vital to growth include limiting the size of government and adjusting taxes to maximize incentives for working and investing.

Liberals share some of that fiscal-reform emphasis, but also focus on investing in "human capital" (education) and infrastructure that supports business activity.

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