The White House said Friday that a new program to make buildings more energy-efficient would create tens of thousands of jobs, as economists girded for yet another glum monthly employment report.
Ahead of the release of national unemployment data for November, President Barack Obama will launch a $2 billion, 24-month program to upgrade government facilities.
In addition, he was to announce that private sector companies had made another $2 billion in commitments for energy upgrades to their buildings.
"We can't wait for Congress to act," Obama said in a statement.
"So today, I'm directing all federal agencies to make at least $2 billion worth of energy efficiency upgrades over the next 2 years -- at no up-front cost to the taxpayer."
The upgrades are planned to be self-funded by the energy costs they save, and will not require new government spending.
"Upgrading the energy efficiency of America's buildings is one of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to save money, cut down on harmful pollution, and create good jobs right now," Obama said.
The program, first announced in February, was to be launched Friday by Obama and former president Bill Clinton.
It is the latest White House effort to boost job creation via the president's executive powers, while the Republican-dominated Congress blocks Obama's larger economic stimulus proposals.
The move comes as stubbornly high unemployment weighs down on Obama's 2012 reelection bid and the US economy struggles to pick up speed.
"We believe that this commitment will create tens of thousands of jobs," including 35,000 alone from the government side of the program, said Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council.
In the November data to be released Friday at 1330 GMT, economists predict only a modest improvement: 123,000 net new jobs, compared to 80,000 in October.
That will not likely budge the 9.0 percent unemployment rate or significantly reduce the overall number of 13.9 million jobless Americans.
"I think the figures will be modestly encouraging; the labor market is generating some jobs," said Josh Feinman, chief economist of DB Advisors.
"But the main reason for hiring remaining modest is that the economic recovery has been modest."
With the presidential election just 11 months away, Obama's Republican challengers are pounding him for allegedly having done little to bring down unemployment since the recession ended in June 2009.
The uphill challenge he faces is clear: analysts say that the economy needs to generate more than 125,000 jobs a month just to keep up with the natural growth of the work force.
If he wants to bring the jobless rate down to just 8.5 percent by next November, according to Hamilton Place Strategies, the country needs 197,000 new jobs each month.
There could be an upside surprise in that range Friday. On Wednesday payrolls firm ADP said businesses added 206,000 jobs in November, much better than anticipated and up from 130,000 in October.
And weekly data indicates the pace of layoffs across the country has been trending lower.
But Ian Shepherdson, at High Frequency Economics, cautioned that a seasonal anomaly skewed the November ADP data, and stuck to his forecast of just 125,000 new jobs for the month.
"The danger now is that the big headline ramps up expectations for Friday and disappointment ensues," Shepherdson said of the ADP number.
"If this month does present good news on the jobs front, the challenge for the president and his team will be how to tout the progress, given the significant risks on the horizon," said Matt McDonald, of Hamilton Place Strategies.
"Between slowing in China and a not-unthinkable crack-up in the eurozone, there are huge external events that could easily form a repeat of last year, when some holiday cheer on the jobs front gave way to a retreat the following spring."