WASHINGTON — President Obama sees a clear and encouraging trend on the economy, citing new reports showing private-sector job growth and lower unemployment.
He used his weekly radio and Internet address yesterday to discuss the latest economic news and press for bipartisan action in the newly divided Congress on measures to spur growth. Obama presented the December jobs report in a positive light even though it fell short of what economists had been looking for and even though the drop in unemployment came partly because some people stopped looking for work.
The private sector added 103,000 new jobs in December, and the unemployment rate fell from 9.8 percent to 9.4 percent.
“We know that these numbers can bounce around from month to month. But the trend is clear,’’ said the president, whose 2012 reelection prospects may well hinge on the condition of the economy.
“We saw 12 straight months of private sector job growth — the first time that’s been true since 2006,’’ he said. The economy added 1.3 million jobs last year. And each quarter was stronger than the last, which means the pace of hiring is picking up, he said.
Obama attributed increasingly optimistic economic forecasts in part to the tax cut deal he negotiated last month with Republicans to extend George W. Bush-era tax rates for all, along with unemployment benefits, a payroll tax cut, and other tax breaks.
He urged businesses to take advantage of provisions including one that allows them to write off 100 percent of their capital investment expenses in 2011. And the president said that the deal stands as an example of how Washington should work as he confronts a Congress in which Republicans just assumed the majority in the House and expanded their ranks in the Senate.
“What we can’t do is refight the battles of the past two years that distract us from the hard work of moving our economy forward,’’ Obama said. “What we can’t do is engage in the kinds of symbolic battles that so often consume Washington while the rest of America waits for us to solve problems.
“The tax cuts and other progress we made in December were a much-needed departure from that pattern. Let’s build on that admirable example.’’
Republicans devoted their weekly address to spotlighting steps being taken by the new GOP House majority, including trimming House members’ operating budgets and moving to repeal Obama’s health care law.
The GOP contends that the law extending coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans is a budget-busting job-killer. The Congressional Budget Office said this past week that repealing it would cost billions.
Although the repeal is not expected to pass the Senate and would certainly be vetoed by Obama, the new House majority leader, Representative Eric Cantor, of Virginia pledged that Republicans would try to replace it with “a new vision to improve our health care system without bankrupting our country.’’
The State Department said yesterday that Clinton had instructed the department to retain “mother’’ and “father’’ as titles in a form known as a “Consular Report of Birth Abroad’’ that US embassies use to document the birth of a child to expatriate Americans. The form will now ask for the names of the child’s “mother or parent 1’’ and “father or parent 2.’’
Gay and lesbian groups had hailed the initial change, which was announced with little fanfare in late December. But conservative groups criticized it as an attack on traditional marriage and family values.