WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama announced Thursday that he'll host a White House summit next month on combating the chronic joblessness that continues to be a drag on a struggling economy.
"We are open to any demonstrably good idea to supplement the steps we've already taken to put America back to work," Obama said before taking off for a trip to Asia, where U.S. and global business prospects will be among the key issues under discussion.
Speaking at the White House, the president called a report showing fewer claims for jobless benefits "a hopeful sign." But with millions of Americans out of work, Obama said the government has "an obligation to consider every additional responsible step we can" to get people back to work.
The nationwide unemployment hit 10.2 percent last month, the highest jobless rate since 1983. Economists believe more jobs will be lost, and the unemployment rate could possibly reach 10.5 percent next year because employers remain reluctant to hire.
The December jobs "forum" will bring in public and private sector experts to talk about how to get the job-creation engine running again, Obama said. Because economic prosperity at home is tied to economies around the world, the president said he also plans to talk about a strategy for growth with leaders in Asia.
"It's a strategy in which Asian and Pacific markets are open to our exports," Obama said. "Prosperity around the world is no longer as dependent on American consumption and borrowing, but rather more on American innovation and products."