By Amie Parnes - 02/03/12 04:58 PM EST
Saying the economy is “growing stronger,” President Obama issued a strong warning to Congress on Friday: “Do not slow down the recovery ... don't muck it up!"
Speaking at a fire house in Arlington, Va. — hours after a jobs report showed the unemployment rate dropped from 8.5 to 8.3 percent — a fiery Obama said Washington has to do everything in its power to help the economy. He urged Congress to pass a payroll tax cut extension without drama and delay.
“They just need to get it done, [it] shouldn’t be that complicated,” Obama said. “Now’s not the time for self-inflicted wounds to our economy. Now’s the time for action. Do not slow down the recovery that we’re on. Don’t muck it up. Keep it moving in the right direction.
Obama’s remarks came after the economy added 243,000 jobs in January, a higher number than what most had expected.
The jobs numbers are good news for Obama, who has insisted that he inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression and that his policies are strengthening the job market. On Friday, aides stressed that his policies have led to 23 straight months of job growth.
The unemployment rate dropped from 8.5 percent to 8.3 percent, the same rate where it stood when Obama entered office.
GOP front-runner Mitt Romney — who has taken advantage of the sour economy to say that Obama’s economic policies have failed — said while the jobs numbers have improved, the country can “do better.”
“We welcome the fact that jobs were created and unemployment declined,” Romney said. “Unfortunately, these numbers cannot hide the fact that President Obama’s policies have prevented a true economic recovery.”
At the same time, Obama acknowledged on Friday that jobs numbers “will go up and down in the coming months and there are still far too many Americans who need a job or need a job that pays better than the one they have now.”
But he said the recovery is “speeding up.”
Earlier on Friday, Alan Krueger, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers at the White House, said the unemployment report supported the administration’s stance that the economy is getting better.
The report, Krueger said, provided “further evidence that the economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.”
“It is critical that we continue the economic policies that are helping us to dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the recession that began at the end of 2007,” Krueger said.
To help the economy continue to grow, Krueger also urged Congress to extend the payroll tax cut and continue to provide emergency unemployment benefits through the end of 2012 in addition to taking the steps Obama proposed during his State of the Union address last week.
Obama was at the firehouse on Friday to announce a new plan that would help returning service members land jobs. He also called on Congress to increase funding for programs that help local communities hire law enforcement officials and firefighters.