Obama and Merkel held one-on-one talks after a two-day G8 summit at the US president's retreat in Camp David, Maryland, that was marked by competing views on how to bring the Europe's sickly economy back to life.
The president, who faces US voters concerned about the economy ahead of November elections, has pushed Europeans to put growth on top of the agenda but the German leader has championed austerity to combat the eurozone debt crisis.
But after the Merkel-Obama talks, a White House official said there was an understanding that the push for growth was "not to take the place of fiscal reform," but that the two go "in tandem."
"There's a growing recognition of the need to take steps in the immediate term that can promote growth in the eurozone... and also pursue the fiscal consolidation that Chancellor Merkel and others have been focused on," White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters.
The leaders had discussed not just steps to carry out structural reforms in the eurozone, but also measures "that could be taken one top of that to promote growth and help stabilize the situation," he said.
Merkel and Obama later headed to Chicago for a Nato summit taking place Sunday and Monday.
G8 leaders papered over deep-seated divisions about how best to tackle the eurozone crisis at the Camp David summit as they voiced their wish to see Greece remain in the single currency area.
Obama said at Camp David that the G8 leaders, who included heads of state and government of France, Britain, Japan, Russia, Italy and Canada, agreed that "growth and jobs must be our top priority."
EU leaders hold a summit in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss ways to kick-start the economy, with new French President Francois Hollande pushing for growth to become the new focus.