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Obama to launch cross-country economic tour

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama will hold a forum on job creation with U.S. business leaders on December 3 and then embark on a cross-country tour to discuss economic recovery, the White House said on Monday.

Obama, who is currently traveling in Asia, said last week he would host the forum to devise ways to combat double-digit unemployment -- but did not announce a date.

The conference aims to bring chief executives, small business owners and financial experts to the White House to exchange ideas on putting unemployed Americans back to work.

"We have a responsibility to consider all good ideas to encourage and accelerate job creation in this country," Obama said in a statement.

"I am looking forward to hearing from the private sector, from CEOs and small business owners and from Americans struggling to make ends meet on how we can work together to create jobs and get this economy moving again."

With unemployment at 10.2 percent in October, a 26-1/2 year high, Obama is under pressure to act. An administration official said last week, however, that the president was not weighing a second stimulus package, on top of a $787 billion emergency government spending bill signed earlier this year.

The day after the forum, Obama will embark on a "White House to Main Street Tour" in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The tour will be spread out over a few months.

Obama wanted to get out of Washington and "take the temperature on what Americans are experiencing during these challenging economic times," the White House said.

On Capitol Hill, a leading Democrat said lawmakers were determined to pass measures this year to spur more job growth.

"A jobless recovery is simply unacceptable to us," said Representative John Larson, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, speaking to reporters before a meeting with Richard Trumka, president of the labor union group AFL-CIO.

Republicans have criticized Obama's economic programs and view the stimulus package as too expensive.

The jobs conference and tour will aim to highlight Obama's intention of responding to Americans' concerns about unemployment ahead of mid-term elections in 2010. The president hopes to hold on to Democratic majorities in both houses of the U.S. Congress.

The U.S. economy began growing again in the third quarter after the worst recession since the Great Depression, but unemployment has continued to climb.

The White House has warned that it could go even higher before falling back because many employers delay hiring new workers for several months after economic growth resumes.

(Additional reporting by Alister Bull and Susan Cornwell, editing by Alan Elsner)

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