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Obama Welcomes Drop in US Jobless Rate

U.S. President Barack Obama says a small decline in the nation's unemployment rate is welcome news, but he wants the economic recovery to build more momentum. The jobless rate dipped one-tenth of a percent in February, to 8.9 percent.

Mr. Obama told high school students in Miami, Florida Friday there is reason to be optimistic about the direction of the nation’s economy. "This morning we learned that the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in nearly two years. Our economy added another 222,000 jobs in the private sector. That is the 12th straight month of private sector job growth," he said.

But the president reminded the audience that the economic recovery is just beginning. "So our economy has now added 1.5 million private sector jobs over the last year. And that is progress. But we need to keep building on that momentum," he said.

The loss of 30,000 state and local government jobs in February meant a net gain of 192,000 jobs. But the addition of 222,000 private sector jobs was the biggest gain since last April.

The decline in the jobless rate from 9.8 percent in November to 8.9 percent in February is the biggest three-month drop since 1983.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, in a written statement, also applauded the lower jobless numbers. But he blamed the Obama administration’s 2009 economic stimulus legislation for feeding what he called a "government spending binge" that Boehner says is blocking the recovery.

One of the president’s top economic advisers, Austan Goolsbee, called the overall trend of the last few months’ economic numbers encouraging. But he cautioned against reading too much into any one monthly report, and said there is considerable work to do to replace the nearly 8 million jobs lost in the recession.

Many economists agree that the growing number of new jobs is a sign that confidence in the economic recovery is building. But some warn that the unemployment rate could go back up as more people who had given up looking for work start trying again.

President Obama visited Miami Central High School to promote his initiatives to improve American education, which he says are crucial to strengthening the U.S. economy. He was joined by former Florida state governor Jeb Bush, who is a Republican and the brother of Mr. Obama's predecessor, former President George W. Bush.