In upbeat remarks, President Obama said Saturday that the drop in joblessness and a batch of tax benefits extending into the new year show that "the trend is clear" for an economy on the upswing. He urged Congress not to "re-fight the battles of the past two years" that took time away from the struggle to get the economy back on track.
The president used his weekly address
to talk up the tax relief enacted by Congress in a bipartisan compromise last month and to put a positive light on the December jobs numbers, which showed unemployment dropping from 9.8 percent to 9.4 percent. But the report also revealed disappointing growth in hiring by private sector employers last month --103,000 positions, not enough to keep up with new applicants in the job market.
"Now we know that these numbers can bounce around from month to month," Obama said. "But the trend is clear. We saw 12 straight months of private sector job growth -- the first time that's been true since 2006, The economy added 1.3 million jobs last year."
The president did not start his day with talk of taxes and employment figures. Rather his motorcade moved slowly through Washington's snowy streets so he could root for his daughter, Sasha. 9, in a basketball game at a recreation center.
But earlier, in his statement from White House, Obama reminded Americans that thanks to the agreement on extending Bush-era tax cuts into 2011, payroll taxes will go down, many families will benefit from a $1.000 child tax credit, and businesses will be able to write off most of their capital investments for one year.
"Our fundamental mission must be to accelerate hiring and growth..." he said. "I'm absolutely confident we will get there." He warned that "we can't re-fight battles of the past two years that distract us from the hard work of moving our economy forward. What we can't do is engage in the kinds of symbolic battles that so often consume Washington while the rest of America waits for us to solve problems."
Obama did not elaborate on what he meant by "symbolic battles," but many Democrats say that's what House Republicans are doing with their determination to repeal the new health care law. A House vote is expected Wednesday, even though it is highly unlikely a repealer can get through the Senate, where Democrats still hold the majority.
In the GOP weekly address
, House Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) vowed that "we will provide Americans with the mainstream solutions they were denied when Democrats used dubious procedural tactics to jam through the (health) bill along strictly partisan lines" last year. Cantor said "the best boost that Congress can provide to the economy is to send a credible signal that we are serious about cutting spending and eliminating job-killing regulations." But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said that rolling back the health law would actually cost money at this point because of the taxes, fees and promised Medicare savings already in place.
Watch Obama's address below.