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Obama Says 2014 Pivotal for US



U.S. President Barack Obama says that 2014 "needs to be a year of action," with the country boosting its labor market and fixing its broken immigration system.

At a year-end news conference Friday, Mr. Obama noted the recent advance in the U.S. economy, but said more needs to be done to cut the country's jobless rate and renew jobless benefits for long-term unemployed workers.

He also said that the government's balky enrollment system for people to buy health insurance is improving, and that a recent budget agreement with Congress on a budget proves Washington does not have to have "endless gridlock."

U.S. political analysts say that 2013 has been the worst of Mr. Obama's five years in the White House. His approval ratings have fallen sharply, with a new CNN survey showing that Americans - by a 56-to-41-percent margin - disapprove of his handling of the presidency.

President Obama has drawn particular criticism over the roll-out of his signature health care reforms, known popularly in the U.S. as Obamacare.

The government web site created for people to buy health insurance sputtered for weeks before technology experts more recently boosted its performance. In addition, Mr. Obama reluctantly had to acknowledge that millions of people would not - as he had repeatedly promised - be able to keep their old insurance policies if they wanted to.

Former security worker Edward Snowden's massive disclosure of clandestine surveillance programs being conducted by the National Security Agency also diminished Mr. Obama's standing. The revelations forced Mr. Obama to confront concerns by many Americans that the government could be over-reaching with its spying as it seeks to thwart terrorist attacks against the U.S.

A judge this week said the surveillance was likely unconstitutional, and a review panel named by Mr. Obama called for new limitations, recommendations he is now considering.

The president spoke to reporters at the White House before heading to the island state of Hawaii to celebrate the Christmas holiday with first lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters. The first family is expected to stay in Hawaii until after New Year's Day.

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