PRINCE GEORGE, Va. - President Obama today hailed two straight years of private-sector job growth under his administration, calling the February jobs report the latest sign "the economy is getting stronger."
"Day by day we're creating new jobs. But we can't stop there, not until everybody who's out there pounding the pavement and sending out their resumes has a chance to land one of those jobs," he said in a speech at a Rolls-Royce Crosspointe jet engine disc manufacturing facility in Prince George County.
The Labor Department reported Friday that employers added 233,000 jobs last month, and revised upward by 41,000 the reported job gains in January and by 20,000 for December.
"The key now, our job now, is to keep this economic engine churning," Obama said. "We can't go back to the same policies that got us into this mess."
The burst of positive economic news added to Obama's swagger as he toured the factory, located just south of Richmond, and addressed supporters before heading south for a duo of campaign fundraisers set to net at least $2.8 million for the 2012 campaign.
In his speech, Obama highlighted a new $1 billion proposal - part of his 2013 budget blueprint - to create a series of regional manufacturing institutes aimed at linking manufacturers and academic experts to make the U.S. more competitive.
He also touted a broad resurgence in the American manufacturing sector, which he has made a major plank in the argument that his economic plan is working, especially in key manufacturing states.
Manufacturers added nearly 400,000 jobs since Obama took office, completing the first full year of consecutive job gains since 1997.
"This facility is part of the evidence of what is going on around the country," Obama told the crowd. "When I come to places like this and see the work that is getting done, it gives me confidence that better days are ahead."
Today's jobs news, which reverberated across the political spectrum, included a mix of accolades for Obama.
The leader of the nation's largest union, Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, hailed it as a "tribute to the leadership of the President." SEIU president Mary Kay Henry said the numbers mean "we must redouble our efforts to re-elect President Obama."
But Republicans, while welcoming the job gains, highlighted the nation's persistently high unemployment rate - which was unchanged last month at 8.3 percent - and the 12.8 million Americans still looking for work, according to government statistics.
"Millions of families continue to feel the pain of the sluggish Obama economy and the rising cost of gas, groceries and health care," said Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus in a statement.
As the November election nears, voters in swing states like Virginia will weigh the trend lines on jobs against those other economic pressures.
The latest polls in Virginia, which Obama carried with 52.6 percent of the vote four years ago, show a bright horizon for the president.
Seventy-eight percent of Virginia voters in the most recent Marist/NBC poll believe economic conditions will either stay the same or get better over the year ahead, while just 19 percent believe the next 12 months will mean more bad economic news.
"I thought it would take him a lot longer to get where he was now," said James Hubbard, Jr., 60, a Virginia native. "I'm pleased with the fact that he's starting to turn things around earlier."
Said Karen Saunders of Chester, Va., "Hopefully… there are more jobs coming. I think he's done a lot, actually, but I think there's more that needs to be done."