By Sam Youngman - 01/07/11 05:10 PM EST
President Obama on Friday seized on last month's decrease in the national unemployment rate to make the case that his policies are turning the economy around.
Speaking at a window manufacturing factory in Maryland, Obama hailed the "overall" positive news that the unemployment rate fell to 9.4 percent in December, though he acknowledged there is more work to do.
The 103,000 jobs added in December fell well below the expectations of most economists, but the president noted that December was the 12th straight month of private sector job growth.
"That's the first time that's been true since 2006," Obama said.
The president also announced another new addition to his retooled economic team at the event: Gene Sperling as the new director of the National Economic Council.
The president credited Sperling with helping him pass small-business tax cuts and the tax compromise that was reached during the lame-duck session.
Obama noted that Sperling was at the NEC during the Clinton administration, saying he "contributed to turning deficits to surpluses and a time of prosperity and progress for American families in a sustained way."
"He's done this before," Obama said.
Obama said Sperling and the rest of his economic team at the White House have "one focus" — growing the economy and putting Americans back to work.
In his remarks, Obama largely avoided mentioning the actual disappointing December jobs figure, saying, "We know these numbers can bounce around sometimes.
"But the trend is clear," Obama said, adding that the private sector is continuing to hire.
The president pleaded with businesses to take advantage of the tax cuts and programs his administration has put in place, telling them it will be good for business and good for the country.
"We want businesses to grow, we want the economy to grow and we want to put people back to work," Obama said.