From NBC's Athena Jones
President Obama kept the emphasis on the positive as he responded Friday to a mixed June jobs report.
While the unemployment rate dipped to 9.5 percent -- the lowest level since July 2009 -- compared to 9.7 percent in May, the report showed 125,000 jobs were lost during the month, driven by the end of temporary census positions. Still, the president noted that the private sector added 83,000 jobs, marking the sixth-straight month of job growth among private firms.
"All told, our economy has created nearly 600,000 private sector jobs this year. That's a stark turnaround from the first six months of last year, when we lost 3.7 million jobs at the height of recession," the president told reporters at Andrews Air Force Base before boarding Air Force One. "Make no mistake: We are headed in the right direction, but as I was reminded on trip to Racine, WI earlier this week, we're not headed there fast enough for a lot Americans. We're not headed there fast enough for me either."
The growth in private sector jobs was one piece of good news, but fewer such jobs were added than the market expected. CNBC's Steve Liesman said many more private sector jobs must be created each month to solidify the recovery and said the overall unemployment rate fell "for all the wrong reasons," mainly because many people had simply stopped looking for work -- a fact Christina Romer, the chair of the the president's Council of Economic Advisers, acknowledged in a blog post on the White House's Web site.
Critics pounced quickly, with the Republican National Committee sending around an e-mail shortly after the jobs numbers were released calling this a "jobless summer."
The economy tops voters priorities as the midterm elections approach and the White House has been anxious to convince the American public that it is focused like a laser on the jobs issue.
"To every American who is looking for work, I promise you we are going to keep on doing everything we can," Obama said. "I will do everything in my power to help our economy create jobs and opportunities for all people."
The president, who was joined at Andrews by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, also announced $795 million in government grants and loans to expand broadband service to under-served communities. That money will be combined with more than $200 million in private sector investment to create what the White House expects will be 5,000 jobs in the short term and to spur economic development in the long term, potentially leading to hundreds of thousands of new jobs, according to the president.
Obama was headed to Charleston, WV, to speak at the funeral service of the late Sen. Robert Byrd, who died Monday. He plans to head to Camp David later today, where he'll spend part of the holiday weekend with his family.