White House predicts an average of 95,000 new jobs each month

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Together, President Barack Obama and his economic team are classifying both data points as signs of marked recovery since 2009, when the economy was shedding about 700,000 jobs every month and the unemployment rate lingered in double digits.

By contrast, the unemployment rate in February is somewhat lower -- it fell from 10 percent in December to 9.7 percent in January -- though the economy lost about 20,000 jobs, about a month after gaining a few thousand new positions in the labor market.

But in a sign of election-year politics, the president also drew sharp contrast between his current administration's work and the previous White House's shortcomings at handling the economic crisis, which Obama said had saddled the country with a burgeoning, trillion-dollar debt.

"I think there's just no way to understate how huge the economic challenges facing the country have been this past year," Christina Romer, chairwoman the Council of Economic Advisers, told the Associated Press.

"So everything obviously from the financial crisis, the terrible recession, but the longer-run problems -- the stagnating middle-class incomes, soaring health care costs, the failure to invest in education, innovation, clean energy -- we certainly inherited an economy with a number of economic problems," she said.

Obama also used the report to tout the series of new job-creation measures he introduced last week, many of which are likely to be part of the Senate's forthcoming job stimulus bill. 

"I can report that over the past year, this work has begun. In the coming year, this work continues," Obama said in a letter accompanying the report. "But to understand where we must go in the next year and beyond, it is important to remember where we began one year ago."

The president cast those proposals in the same light as he did the 2008 federal stimulus -- as necessary reforms likely to spur job growth and accelerate economic recovery.

But Republicans sezied on the council's latest projections Thursday morning, charging Romer's reports are "notoriously inaccurate."

"Just last year, she predicted that if the Democrats' trillion-dollar 'stimulus' was enacted, unemployment would remain below eight percent," said Kevin Smith, a spokesman in House GOP Leader John Boehner's office. "Since then, more than three million Americans have lost their jobs and unemployment still hovers at near double-digits. Families and small businesses are asking 'Where are the jobs?'"

"They don't want more wasteful 'stimulus,' they want both parties to work together on common-sense solutions that help small businesses create jobs," Smith added.