President Obama leaned on Thursday’s strong jobs report to push for infrastructure spending, immigration reform and an increase in the minimum wage to bolster economic growth.
Obama, who has more vociferously attacked congressional Republicans in recent days, reiterated his intentions to do what he can through executive actions, and said the lack of legislative movement on Capitol Hill is holding the economy back.
“It’s really important for us to understand that we could be making even stronger progress, we could be growing even more jobs, we could be creating even more business opportunities for smart, talented folks … if those of us here in Washington were focused on them, focused on you, the American people, rather than focused on politics,” he said Thursday.
Obama made an unscheduled stop to a tech startup in Washington to trumpet a jobs report released Thursday morning that found the economy added 288,000 jobs in June, pushing the unemployment rate down to 6.1 percent. That’s the lowest jobless since September 2008, when the financial crisis began.
“We have not seen more consistent job growth since the ’90s,” Obama said, referencing the boom years under former President Clinton.
“It should be a useful reminder to people all across the country that given where we started back in 2008, we have made enormous strides, thanks to the incredible hard work of the American people and American businesses that have been out there competing, getting smarter, getting more effective,” he said.
Despite the expressions of confidence, the White House says it is concerned about the ability of the long-term unemployed to find work and the lack of substantial wage growth.
“Historically, financial crises take a longer time to recover from,” Obama said.
“We've done better than the vast majority of other countries over the last five years, but that drag has still meant a lot of hardship for a lot of folks,” Obama said.
Obama reiterated his calls for action on equal pay and affordable child care, and repeatedly said the economy is headed in the right direction.
“So my hope is, is the American people look at today’s news and understand that, in fact, we are making strides.”
“But we can make even more progress if Congress is willing to work with my administration and to set politics aside, at least occasionally, which I know is what the American people are urgently looking for.”