President Obama said Friday afternoon that new figures showing the Gross Domestic Product contracted at a much lower rate in the second quarter than it did at the start of the year illustrate that the "in the last few months, the economy has done measurably better than we had thought."
The president attributed the improved situation to his nearly $800 billion economic stimulus package, saying progress is "directly attributable to the Recovery Act."
He argued that "important steps that we've taken over the last six months have helped us put the brakes on the recession."
"Now, I realize that none of this is much comfort to those Americans who are still out of work and struggling to make ends meet," the president acknowledged. "And when we receive our monthly jobs report next week, it's likely to show that we're still continuing to lose far too many jobs."
But he stressed that "today's GDP is an important sign that the economy is headed in the right direction."
Republicans have attacked the stimulus package as wasteful and ineffective, and the White House seized on the new figures to buttress its argument that the massive spending bill is having its intended effect.
In an effort to underscore that argument, the president also noted that new figures show "that the recession we faced when I took office was even deeper than anyone thought at the time. It told us how close we were to the edge." The government had previously calculated that the economy had grown 1.1 percent in 2008 but today revised that number down to 0.4 percent.
The president said he is "guardedly optimistic" about the state of the economy, though he noted that a recovery "won't happen overnight." He said the new figures show that business investment is stabilizing, which he indicated will lead to renewed hiring and, eventually, a feeling among Americans that a true recovery is at hand.
"As I've said before, it took us many more months to fully dig ourselves out of a recession that we now know was even deeper than anyone thought, but I will continue to work every single day and take every step that's necessary to make sure that happens," he said.
Added the president: "I want to make sure that all the Americans out there who are still struggling because they're out of work or not having enough work know that this administration will not rest until the movement that we're seeing on the business side starts translating into jobs for those people and -- and their families."
In his comments Friday afternoon, the president also lauded members of the House for working to expand the so-called "Cash For Clunkers" program, which he said "succeeded well beyond out expectations and all expectations." Read more on that story here>.