President Barack Obama said today’s Labor Department report on U.S. job growth shows progress, while more must be done to bolster the economy.
“The economy is getting stronger,” Obama said at Rolls- Royce Holdings Plc.’s Crosspointe facility in Prince George County, Virginia. “It gives me confidence there are better days ahead.”
The country must continue to work so that “everybody who wants a good job can find one,” Obama said.
The Labor Department today reported that employers in the U.S. boosted payrolls by 227,000 in February, more than forecast, while the unemployment rate held at 8.3 percent. Job growth over the last six months was the strongest since 2006. The median projection of economists in a Bloomberg News survey called for a 210,000 increase in February employment.
“This facility is part of the evidence of what’s going on all across the country,” Obama told approximately 1,460 workers and community leaders at the Virginia plant.
Obama is seeking to build on positive election-year economic news as data showing increases in homebuilding and car sales and decreases in jobless claims have beaten forecasts.
“When we harness our own ingenuity, our own technology” the U.S. can free the nation from dependence on foreign oil and rising gas prices, he said.
The U.S. auto industry was revived by the bailout led by his administration and is building “better,” more fuel- efficient cars, Obama said. U.S. manufacturers are adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s, he said.
‘Can’t Go Back’
“We can’t go back to the same policies that got us into this mess, we can’t go back to an economy that was weakened by outsourcing, and bad debts and phony financial profits,” he said.
The administration announced a $1 billion investment, already allocated in Obama’s 2013 budget, to be used to establish as many as 15 manufacturing hubs nationwide and a $45 million commitment of existing funds from the Defense, Energy and Commerce departments and the National Science Foundation for a competitive program that will help support research and advanced manufacturing equipment development.
In the 2008 election, Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win in Virginia since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
Aircraft Parts Manufacturing
The Rolls-Royce campus of more than 1,000 acres -- the largest Rolls-Royce site by area in North America and employing 150 people -- manufactures precision-engineered engine discs and other parts for aircraft, including Boeing Co. (BA)’s 787 Dreamliner.
London-based Rolls-Royce is planning to add 140 jobs at Crosspointe, according to a White House fact sheet.
Obama has made 13 visits to Virginia since filing for re- election in April, most of them to the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, where Democratic voters turned out in large numbers to support him in 2008.
Virginia’s Republican Governor Bob McDonnell greeted Obama and gave the president a golf glove with the state tourism slogan, “Virginia is for Lovers.” Obama “was very impressed that I knew he wore a left-handed glove,” McDonnell said.
Rolls-Royce North America Chief Executive Officer James Guyette led the president on a tour of the facility. Commerce Secretary John Bryson joined Obama on the visit.
Later today, the president will travel to Houston, where he will attend two fundraisers -- one small high-dollar event and one larger event for smaller contributors. His re-election campaign expects to raise at least a combined $2.8 million, according to a campaign official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Gold in Hills
Obama has visited Texas, a Republican stronghold, twice since filing for re-election in April, including four fundraisers in Dallas and Austin. Obama lost Texas by 11 percentage points in 2008 to his Republican opponent, Arizona Senator John McCain.
Sherri Greenberg, director of the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, said Obama keeps returning to Texas because of its fundraising opportunities, not because he thinks he can win the state in November.
“Let’s not forget, as we say, ‘There’s gold in them thar hills!’” she said in an interview. “This has been good fundraising territory for the president; there’s real and deep support for him here among givers and big givers.”
“There may not be a lot of Democratic votes in Texas, but there’s lots of Democratic money,” said Mark McKinnon, a Republican Party strategist who worked for George W. Bush, the former president and Texas governor, as well as for several Texas Democratic politicians.
Through Jan. 31 Obama has raised $140 million, compared with about $64 million for the top fundraiser among the Republican candidates, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Greenberg said she doesn’t think “anyone’s under any illusions” about whether Texas is a “red state or a blue state.”
Obama will deliver remarks at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros baseball team, to more than 600 people who paid at least $500. Later he will attend a reception at the home of Anthony Chase, chairman and chief executive officer of ChaseSource LP, a Houston-based staffing company, with about 70 people who paid $35,800 each. The reception at Chase’s River Oaks home is co-hosted by his wife, Dina Alsowayel, who is associate director of women’s studies at the University of Houston.
Chase resigned as the director and deputy chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in 2008 to campaign for Obama. The U.S. central bank prohibits directors from participating in partisan politics.
Democrats look at the changing demographics, such as the growing Hispanic population in Texas, and see an opportunity, Greenberg said.
“It’s one thing for the demographics to change, it’s one thing for Hispanics to achieve a majority, it’s another thing to register to vote, and it’s another thing to actually show up at the polls,” Greenberg said.
Employment (NFSETX) in Texas has risen almost 2 percent, personal income has increased about 11 percent and home prices have fallen about 2.5 percent since Obama took office, according to the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States Index, which uses data on employment, real estate, taxes and local stocks to track the direction of state economies.
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