President Obama on Friday sought to reassure voters about the economy, promising “things will get better.”
The remarks were Obama’s first public comments following a report that showed the economy added 117,000 jobs last month. Volatile markets reacted by swinging wildly; the Dow Jones opened more than 150 points higher before plummeting and falling into the red by triple digits.
The zig-zagging markets served as a backdrop for Obama’s comments from the Washington Navy Yard.
He called on lawmakers to approve an extension in the payroll tax cut and an extension in unemployment benefits when they return in September to bolster the flagging economy.
“While this marks the 17th month in a row of job growth in the private sector ... we have to create more jobs than that each month to make up for the more than 8 million jobs that the recession claimed,” Obama said.
He sought to use an encouraging tone when it came to the economy, which a whopping 86 percent of Americans called either “fairly” or “very” bad in a New York Times/CBS News poll released Friday.
“What I want the American people and our partners around the world to know is this: We are going to get through this,” the president said. “Things will get better, and we are going to get there together.”
The White House is trying to pivot back to a focus on job creation after a politically bruising battle with Congress over raising the debt limit. Obama said Friday that his “singular focus” now is getting the unemployed back to work and creating jobs. The president will take that message on the road with his Midwestern bus tour later this month.
But Obama still faces significant obstacles in the Republican-controlled House when it comes to advancing some of his key initiatives. That’s especially true of extending unemployment insurance, which is set to expire this fall.
“The most important thing we can do for somebody who’s unemployed is see if we can get them a job,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said on CNBC. “For too long in Washington now, we have been worried about pumping up these stimulus monies, pumping up unemployment benefits ... I think those people on unemployment benefits would rather have a job.”
Obama proposed new benefits for veterans returning from the battlefield as part of his plan to boost the economy. He proposed a “boot camp” for veterans to help boost their skills and guide their transition to civilian life, along with new and expanded tax credits for employers who hire veterans.