Obama: 'Businesses Must Hire to Boost Economy'

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President Barack obama wants American businesses to hire and invest more to help the fragile economy.

With an election on the horizon, he has signaled his willingness to partner with the business community. Critics say his new message doesn't quite square up with his record.

It has been 20 months since the recession officially ended, according to economists.

However, for the average American, times are still tough. The 500 Texas employees who will lose their jobs when Continental and United Airlines merge is a prime example.

"There is a little bit of feeling of betrayal from the top," said Adam Laurie, a United Continental employee.

The latest government figures show nearly 14 million Americans are unemployed and only 36,000 jobs were created in January.

With this in mind, Obama made a direct plea for American businesses to "get in the game."

"My message is now is the time to invest in America," Obama said. "Now is the time to invest in America."

The president prodded business leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to unload some of the $2 trillion reportedly on their balance sheets. Invoking former President John F.Kennedy's inaugural address, he called for American businesses to ask what they can do for America, to hire American workers, and to invest in this country.

The response to the speech was muted. Beltway observers said the speech was more a sign of political desperation when it comes to the administration's attempts to unclog the slow economy.

Some critics said a big problem has been the climate of uncertainty over the last two years. Business leaders couldn't be sure what regulations or new laws Washington, D.C., would come up with next.

"If you're a business and you're trying to decide whether to invest, whether to expand, you just don't know what's coming at you," said David Chavern, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

"If there is a reason that you don't share my confidence, if there is a reason that you don't believe that this is the time to get off the sidelines, to hire and to invest, I want to know about it," Obama said. "I want to fix it."

The problem isn't necessarily the message -- but the messenger and what's seen as his unfriendly business policies over his last two years in office.

With an election around the corner, critics said the president is trying to re-cast his image. Still, businesses will want to see action -- not just speeches. So they will be waiting to see what the administration does in the months ahead.

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