White House aides and key congressional Democrats have reached tentative agreement on a compromise version of the Humphrey-Hawkins job-creation bill that would set a national unemployment target of 4 per cent, to be reached within five years.
But unlike earlier versions President Carter resisted as inflationary, this one would not require the administration to take any specific job-creating steps the goal.
Instead, the compromise worked out in protracted negotiations with congressional sponsors would merely establish the target, then authorize but not mandate new programs to achieve it.
The unemployment rate is now 7 per cent of the work force.
A 4 per cent overall unemployment rate would work out to a 3 per cent rate for all adults over 19.
Sources emphasized yesterday that the agreement is only tentative among negotiators, and has not been approved formally by the dozen or so labor, civil rights and other outside groups supporting the Humphrey-Hawkins legislation.
If these groups approve, the White House plans to announce presidential support of the measure next week.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey (D-Minn.) and Rep. Augustus F. Hawkins (D-Calif.).
The sponsoring groups will be briefed on the compromise today at a meeting of the Full Employment Action Council, which is acting as a lobbying center for the legislation. Key members of the Congressional Black Caucus, another major sponsor, were informed of the proposal yesterday.
Even with these qualifications, the tentative pact marked the first basic agreement, between the two sides since negotiations began early last spring. Carter endorsed the bill reluctantly during the 1976 presidential campaign at the insistence of the Black Caucus but then shied away from supporting it openly.
The 4 per cent unemployment target and the five years allowed for attaining it were the two major sticking points that had prevented agreement earlier in the negotiations. The 1976 version of the bill provided for a 3.8 per cent overall jobless target within four years.
The jobless rate in the United States edged back up to 7 per cent in October, marking the seventh month in a row that unemployment has remained at about that level. Moreover the unemployment rate among black has been worsening in recent months despite earlier stimulus efforts.
Endorsement of the legislation by the President would be a major victory for the Black Caucus and other federals. Supporters have been seeking a White House endorsement for the bill for months, but other observers have scoffed that their goal was unrealistic.
In the face of mounting pressure, Carter pledged in September that he would support a compromise version of the bill within 10 days. The negotiations then proved more difficult than expected, but sources said yesterday by both sides.
Along with the unemployment timetable, the bill would contain these elements:
Establishment of a companion anti-inflation target, with the proviso that the White House could not alter WORD ILLEGIBLE£ it or job goals without specific congressional approval.
A requirement that Carter make annual reports to Congress on the congress the government is making toward the goals. The first report would be due a year after the legislation issued.
Language guaranteeing in principle, that every American has a "right" on a job. However, this clause would use some of the emphasis it had in the earlier version, since the government would not be required to provide work for everyone.
While the final negotiations were going on, the President met yesterday with members of the Black Caucus. But the subject of the meeting called at Carter's initiative, was American policy toward South Africa, and the Humphrey-Hawkins legislation was not mentioned.
Rep. Parren J. Mitchell (D-Md.), chairman of the caucus, told reporters at the White House that the President has not given his final blessing to the compromise.But he added that he has "every reasonable expectation" that Carter will approve the legislation once it reaches his desk.
While they did not mention Humphrey-Hawkins, Mitchell said that the caucus members raised the issue of black unemployment during their 45-minute meeting at the White House with the President.
"It is clear that the [Administration's]efforts have not even begun to dent the unemployment that racks our community," Mitchell said.
Mitchell said the caucus members asked Carter to examine how existing government programs could be expanded and accelerated to deal with "the crisis of unemployment in the black community."
He said the President was openly skeptical of a claim by the caucus that there is a $1 billion shortfall in spending for existing programs, but promised to have his staff investigate.