President Obama acknowledged Friday morning that the U.S. economy is not recovering as quickly as he had hoped, but he promised that would change on his watch.
America's employment gains are not happening quickly enough to make up for the jobs lost during "the worst recession that any of us have ever seen," Mr. Obama said.
"While this marks the 17th month in a row of job growth in the private sector, nearly 2.5 million new private sector jobs in all, we have to create more jobs that that each month to make up for the more than 8 million jobs that the recession claimed," he said.
"We are going to get through this," the president vowed, adding: "Things will get better."
The monthly jobs report out Friday showed a slight drop in the unemployment rate to 9.1 percent, with 117,000 jobs added to the economy. The private sector added 150,000 jobs while governments cut 37,000 jobs last month.
Mr. Obama urged Congress - when it gets back from its month-long August recess - to "move quickly" on measures he said would stimulate the economy, including extending the payroll tax credit and "putting construction workers back to work rebuilding America."
He said there was no contradiction between trying to grow the economy and dealing with the nation's debt, telling an audience at the Washington Navy Yard, "The more we grow, the easier it will be to reduce our deficits."
It will be difficult for Mr. Obama and Democrats to get any stimulative spending measures through the GOP-led House, which means the president has limited options when it comes to spurring economic growth. He is pushing hard for the extension, and possible expansion, of the payroll tax credit that expires at the end of the year, as well as completion of a bill to reauthorize the federal highway program, which lapses Sept. 30.
Mr. Obama was appearing at an event to push for expanded tax credits and what he called a "reverse boot camp" to help veterans find jobs when they return from the battlefield.
The government is seeking to incentivize private companies to hire and train 100,000 veterans by 2013 through tax credits. If a company makes a long-term hire of a veteran, it would get a $4,800 tax credit; if it hires a disabled veteran, they could get a tax credit worth up to $9,600 under the wonder warrior program, an increase of nearly $5,000 from current levels. The program would come at a cost of $120 million.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said before the speech that the effort is "a welcome step in the right direction, it is just not enough." He said the effort was too small to make a serious impact on jobs, adding: "We need everything we can do to actually solve the jobs crisis on a scale that will actually put people back to work and not nibble around its edges."
In his remarks, Mr. Obama said his "singular focus" is helping the American people recover from the recession. He said the "divisive" fight over raising the debt limit did not reflect lawmakers at our best.
"We have to do better than that," he said. "We've got to be able to work together to grow the economy right now, and strengthen our long-term finances."