Obama says jobs report shows manufacturing agenda's success

President Obama tied Friday’s positive jobs report to his administration’s success in rebuilding the manufacturing industry during a visit to a Rolls-Royce plant in Virginia.

“Manufacturing is adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s,” the president said. “We just had another good month last month in terms of adding manufacturing jobs, and this facility is part of the evidence of what’s going on.”

The economy added 227,000 jobs in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report released on Friday. The number exceeded expectations and was the third straight month of job gains to come in at above 200,000, although the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 8.3 percent.

Employment in the manufacturing sector increased by 31,000 in February, the third straight month of job growth for the sector.

The growth in jobs has improved Obama’s reelection outlook, though the stubbornly high unemployment rate remains a problem. Economists say 300,000 to 400,000 jobs would need to be added each month to dramatically bring the unemployment rate down, particularly if workers who have given up the search for a job look to return to the workforce.

Obama is expected to center his economic message around the policies he enacted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, particularly his decision to bail out U.S. automakers Chrysler and General Motors.

The GOP candidates for president have criticized that decision, arguing Obama should not have used taxpayer dollars to bail out the companies.

Republicans on Friday also attacked Obama’s policies on the economy, taxes and energy, arguing the economy would have been improved more with different leadership.

On Friday, Obama cited the auto bailout, higher fuel standards, which he says will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil as cars get better mileage, and investments in aerospace technology, such as Boeing’s Dreamliner airplane, as contributing to the turnaround in manufacturing.

“We invent stuff and we build it and pretty soon the entire world adapts it,” Obama said. “As long as I’m president we’re going to keep doing it, we’re going to make sure that the next generation of life-changing products are invented and manufactured here in America.”

The Rolls-Royce factory in Virginia builds engine discs for aircraft; during the speech, Obama painted a picture of a “renaissance” of high-tech, high-wage American manufacturing that he hopes will appeal to voters in Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the battleground states that will be critical in determining the outcome of the 2012 election.

The president also laid out his plan to build partnerships between private industries, universities and the government to foster innovation and encourage investment in the U.S. manufacturing sector.

Obama said the Rolls-Royce plant, which is involved in collaborations with colleges throughout the state and is expected to double in size in the next few years, is an example of what the program hopes to accomplish.

But other than that, the policy discussion was brief, which will do little to quell Republican criticism that the president was merely campaigning in a swing state on the public’s dime.

The White House has continually pushed back on such criticism, especially in regard to the president’s stops in Virginia, which it says was never considered a swing state until Obama made it competitive and which is a quick commute from Washington.

The president was flying to Texas for campaign fundraisers immediately following the speech.

Obama toured the Rolls-Royce facility with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), who is a top surrogate for Mitt Romney and who some have speculated could be the vice presidential candidate on the GOP ticket this fall.