GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Reacting to this morning's weak jobs report, President Obama admitted the economy is not creating jobs "as fast as we want," but was confident that the country has better days ahead.
"Today, we're still fighting our way back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression," the president told workers at the Honeywell Golden Valley facility. "The economy is growing again, but it's not growing as fast as we want it to grow. Our businesses have created almost 4.3 million new jobs over the last 27 months, but as we learned in today's jobs report, we're still not creating them as fast as we want."
The economy added just 69,000 jobs last month, well below expectations of 150,000, and the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.2 percent, the Labor Department announced this morning.
Obama pointed to spiking gas prices and the European debt crisis as examples of the "serious headwinds" that continue to stunt the economic recovery.
"We've got a lot of work to do before we get to where we need to be," he said. "All these factors have made it even more challenging to not just fully recover, but also lay the foundation for an economy that's built to last over the long term."
Breaking into a campaign cadence, the president assured the crowd that "we do have better days ahead."
"We knew the road to recovery would not be easy. We knew it would take time. We knew there would be ups and downs along the way. But we also knew if we were willing to act wisely and boldly and if we were acting together as Americans, if we were willing to keep at it, if we were willing to roll up our sleeves and never quit, then we wouldn't just come back; we'd come back stronger than ever," the president, in shirt-sleeves, said to applause.
He was also quick to point a finger at lawmakers, urging them to act on his legislative "to-do list" to boost the economy.
"It's not lost on anybody that it's an election year. I understand that. I've noticed," the president said to chants of "four more years!" "We've got responsibilities that are bigger than an election. … We've got responsibilities to you. So my message to Congress is: Now's not the time to play politics, now's not the time to sit on your hands. The American people expect their leaders to work hard no matter what year it is. The economy still isn't where it needs to be."
Obama's wish-list for Congress revolves around a series of economic initiatives he has been pushing for months, but that have gained little traction on Capitol Hill.
The president argued today that the measures will spur hiring and help put money back in the pockets of middle-class families.
"Let's get that done right now," the president said of his latest housing refinance plan, which would give homeowners the chance to save an average of $3,000 a year. "That helps you go out and buy some things that your family needs, which is good for business.
"Maybe somebody will be replacing some thingamajig for their furnace," he said to laughter from the Honeywell workers, who make those kinds of thingamajigs.
Republicans sharply chastised the president as he spoke, yet another sign the general election campaign is in full swing.
"President Obama's re-election slogan may be 'forward,' but his policies are taking us backwards," Mitt Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said in a written statement. "This morning's unemployment report was another harsh indictment of the president's handling of the economy. It is clear that President Obama's policies have failed and his hostility toward job creators is only making things worse."
The Romney campaign noted that Obama visited Minnesota four years ago, almost to the day, predicting at a St. Paul event that his presidency would turn things around.
"I am absolutely certain that, generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless," Obama said at the time. "This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal. … This was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation, and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth."