WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Wednesday that the economy should grow at much stronger rates the rest of this year as the country overcomes the impact of a harsh winter. But Lew said millions of Americans continue to struggle as unemployment remains too high and economic growth is too slow.
“Evidence continues to mount that our economy is gaining traction,” Lew said in a speech to the Economic Club of New York. “Nevertheless, we cannot escape the fact that millions of Americans continue to struggle and their pain reminds us that our work is not finished. … For too many families this hardly feels like a recovery.”
In his remarks, which were distributed in Washington, Lew called for actions by the government and the private sector to boost hiring of the long-term unemployed and increase investment in productivity-enhancing equipment and critical infrastructure projects such as roads, railways and ports.
Lew said the country also needed a stronger commitment to education in the areas of science, math and engineering to make sure students have the skills they need to compete in the new economy.
Lew said that from 1948 to 2007, the economy grew at average annual rates of 3.4 percent per year. But he said the Congressional Budget Office is now projecting that after the economy returns to full employment, economic growth will only average about 2.1 percent per year — just two-thirds of the average right after World War II.
“The choices we make over the years to come can alter this projection,” Lew said, suggesting increased investments would boost economic growth and productivity.
Congress yet to enact proposals
Lew’s suggestions reflected many proposals that the Obama administration has put forward but which Congress has yet to enact. Among the areas Lew stressed: