Obama claims victory after drop in U.S. jobless rate

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 05, 2016 3:18 PM

By Ayesha Rascoe and Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said Americans should feel good about the economy after the latest jobs report on Friday showed the U.S. unemployment rate at an eight-year low of 4.9 percent.

Obama, in his eighth and final year in office, made a relatively rare and unexpected appearance in the White House briefing room to talk about how the economy had recovered under his watch.

"We have recovered from the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, the worst in my lifetime and the lifetime of most of the people in this room," Obama said, noting the unemployment rate was 10 percent in 2009, when he took office.

"We've done it faster, stronger, better, more durably than just about any other advanced economy," Obama said.

The White House has griped that Obama does not get enough credit for turning the economy around, a complaint Obama joked about on Thursday during a visit from the Golden State Warriors basketball champions.

"You defied the cynics, you accomplished big things, you racked up a great record, and you don’t get enough credit - I can’t imagine how that feels," Obama said, drawing laughter.

On Friday, he acknowledged that "there's still anxiety and concern about the general direction of the economy," noting the job losses, stock market plunges and free fall in the housing market in 2007-2008 were still fresh in Americans' memories.

Obama said "softness" in China, Europe and other economies presented challenges to U.S. exporters and he said it was important for the United States to "keep our foot to the accelerator" to further strengthen the economy.

"We should feel good about the progress we've made, understanding that we have still got more work to do," he said, noting the budget he will propose to Congress on Tuesday will have ideas for job creation and retraining.

Obama slammed Republican candidates in the race to replace him in the Nov. 8 presidential election for "talking down" the economy.

"I know that's still inconvenient for Republican stump speeches as their doom-and-despair tour plays in New Hampshire," Obama said, referring to the primary election in the state on Tuesday.

(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Writing by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Tom Brown)