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Economy is growing but not as fast as we want it: Obama

Blames high gasoline prices and headwinds from Europe's economic crisis for the lag

Reuters  |  Golden Valley, Minnesota 

President Barack Obama said on Friday the US was still fighting its way back to full health and was not yet growing or creating jobs fast enough, blaming high gasoline prices and headwinds from Europe's economic crisis for the lag.

"The is growing again but it's not growing as fast as we want it to grow," he told workers and supporters at a Honeywell factory in Minnesota. "Our businesses have created almost 4.3 million new jobs over the last 27 months but as we learned in today's job report, we are still not creating them as fast as we want."

Stock markets fell on Friday after the government released its latest employment snapshot showing the US jobless rate ticked up to 8.2% in May from 8.1% in April.

Obama, a Democrat running for re-election on November 6, said external factors were largely at fault.

"Just like at this time last year, our is still facing some serious headwinds," he said.

Obama said gas prices were "hitting peoples' wallets pretty hard" despite falling from recent peaks and described euro zone troubles as "starting to cast a shadow" over the United States.

"We've got a lot of work to do before we get to where we need to be," he said.

In his speech, Obama also repeated his call for Republicans in Congress to enact his so-called "to do list" of legislative steps that could lift hiring and spur growth this election year.

"My message to Congress is: now is not the time to play politics. Now is not the time to sit on your hands. The American people expect their leaders to work hard no matter what year it is," Obama told the fired-up crowd.

"The economy still isn't where it needs to be. There are steps that could make a difference right now, steps that could also serve as a buffer in case situation in Europe gets any worse," he said.

Obama's Republican rival in the November election, former Massachusetts governor and private equity executive Mitt Romney, said the jobs report was "dismal" and proof that Obama's economic policies were failing.

The Republican Party also issued a statement highlighting comments from Honeywell chief executive David Cote criticizing the rising national US debt, seeking to remind voters about swelling federal deficits under Obama.

In Minnesota, Obama said his proposals - including tax credits for small businesses and federal aid to help states prevent teacher, firefighter and other layoffs - could help foster broad growth.

He also stressed the need to help veterans of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan find their feet.

"I believe that no one who fights for this country should ever have to fight for a job when they come home," he said, to loud applause. "If we're going to serve our veterans as well as they serve us, we've got to do it well."

The Obama administration has been focused on improving the care and services veterans receive once home, offering employers incentives to hire former soldiers and recognize their military training as medics and in other professions.

Veterans and military families make up an important voting bloc in electoral battleground states such as Virginia, Florida, Colorado and North Carolina.

Obama carried Minnesota by a solid 10% in 2008 and is leading Romney by a similar margin so far, according to several recent state polls.

Later on Friday, Obama will attend a series of fundraisers in Minnesota then travel to Chicago for more campaign events.

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First Published: Sat, June 02 2012. 12:03 IST