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Obama touts private sector job growth

From NBC's Athena Jones
Calling job creation and rebuilding the economic security of the middle class "the moral and national challenge of our time," President Obama touted September's private sector job growth today while slamming Republicans for standing in the way of efforts to spur the economy.

The unemployment rate was unchanged at 9.6 percent during the month as the economy lost 95,000 jobs, due mainly to government layoffs. The private sector added 64,000 jobs, a point the president and his aides emphasized repeatedly this morning.

"We've now seen nine straight months of private sector job growth," Obama said after touring a small brick and masonry company in Bladensburg, MD.

Private sector employment has risen by 863,000 since last December and private sector employers have added an average of 91,000 jobs per month over the most recent quarter of this year, Austan Goolsbee, the chair of the White House's Council of Economic Advisers, wrote in a blog post. Goolsbee argued it was important not to "read too much" into the jobs report, given the volatility in the data, while also noting that estimates of private sector job growth for July and August were revised up by a total of 36,000.

The economy and the unemployment rate top voters' concerns as the November midterm elections approach. Today's jobs report is the last one before Election Day. With political analysts predicting Democratic losses in both houses, Obama faces the task of having to acknowledge that the economy has a long way to go before the recovery is felt broadly while at the same time arguing that it is headed in the right direction and making the case to voters that the GOP would put the country back on the wrong track.

Obama also announced plans to meet Monday with engineers, economists and state and local politicians to discuss the need to put more people back to work by rebuilding the nation's infrastructure. He also spoke about the Small Business Jobs Act that he signed last week as well as the loans and tax cuts it provides to companies.

"Unfortunately it was held up all summer by a partisan minority until a few courageous Republican senators put politics aside," he said. "Just imagine the difference it could have made for small businesses in our economy had it happened months before."

The Republican National Committee has consistently and effectively bashed the president and the Democratic Congress for what they say are failed efforts to boost job growth. One of the headlines in a statement the RNC released this morning blared" The Stimulus Failed to Create the Promised Jobs." The statement went on to argue that the administration's policies -- including the president's proposal to allow tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire -- are creating uncertainty for businesses and families.

During this morning's visit to the brick company, the president joked that the firm built walls that were thick and difficult to move and could stop anything in their path "sort of like the way I feel about Congress sometimes." A loss of seats in the House and Senate will make it even harder for Obama to push through his political agenda.

The White House is hoping the president can motivate the Democratic base -- liberals, young people, African-Americans -- to get to the polls on Nov. 2 to save the Democratic majorities. The president is hosting another big outdoor rally in Philadelphia on Sunday with that goal in mind. His rally at the Univ. of Wisconsin last week drew some 26,000 people.