President Barack Obama on Friday cast the state of the economy in upbeat terms, declaring that it was headed in the right direction even as employers slashed payrolls last month for the first time in half a year as temporary census jobs ended.
The net job loss was driven by the expected end of 225,000 temporary census jobs. But private sector hiring was actually up by a total of 83,000 workers, a positive point emphasized by Obama. He noted that such private hiring was up for the sixth straight month, a turnaround from the first half year of 2009.
The unemployment rate dropped to 9.5 percent.
"We are headed in the right direction," he said. "We're not headed there fast enough for a lot of Americans. We're not headed there fast enough for me, either."
Addressing the millions who are finding the search for work difficult, Obama promised anew to do everything he could.
To that end, Obama announced the latest burst of taxpayer-financed stimulus spending, a nationwide project to expand broadband access in places with little or no reliable Internet service. The president said it would create 5,000 construction jobs in the short term and ultimately benefit "tens of millions" of people.
The new report out Friday suggests businesses are still slow to hire amid a weak economic recovery.
The overall civilian unemployment rate fell to the lowest level since July 2009, but the rate actually looked better than it was. The rate dropped in large measure because some 652,000 people gave up on their job searches and left the labor force — and thus were no longer counted as unemployed.
The president sought to put the report in perspective, comparing June's more moderate numbers to the staggering pace of monthly job losses that were occurring as he took office.
All told, 14.6 million people were looking for work in June.
Obama spoke right before flying to West Virginia for a memorial service for Sen. Robert Byrd.
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