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Obama Touts US Economic Advance as Congressional Elections Loom

FILE - President Barack Obama speaks about the economy at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College in Los Angeles, July 2014.

President Barack Obama is painting a favorable view of the American economy, telling voters a month ahead of congressional elections that the country's fortunes have sharply improved from the depths of the recession six years ago.

Political surveys show Obama's favorable ratings are below 50 percent nearly halfway through his second four-year term, and his Democratic party could lose its majority control of the Senate in the November 4 balloting.

But the American leader told a crowd of students at Northwestern University outside Chicago, Illinois on Thursday that the foundation is in place for more economic growth.

"For all the work that remains, for all the citizens that we still need to reach, what I want people to know is that are some really good things happening in America," said President Obama.

He noted that the unemployment rate in the world's biggest economy has dropped from 10 percent to 6.1 percent and that the country has added 10 million more jobs since the worst of the downturn in 2008 and 2009. He said the country's job growth is more than the combined figure for Europe, Japan and other advanced economies.

He acknowledged that many Americans have still not felt the country's economic advance. Obama, as he has in the past, said congressional action on his priorities would improve their lives.

The president noted that he is not personally on the ballot next month. But he said his policies are, including a call for an increase in the country's minimum wage, more infrastructure spending and immigration reform, all of which have been blocked by Republican lawmakers.

The American leader's assessment of the American economy came hours after the government reported that the number of U.S. workers making claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to its lowest level in more than eight years.

Analysts viewed the report as another signal that the American economy, the world's largest, is continuing its recovery. The Labor Department said that 287,000 jobless workers made first-time claims for unemployment compensation, down 8,000 from the week before and the lowest figure since June 2006.

Jobless benefit applications are a sign of how many workers employers are laying off. The number of benefit claims has been falling since April, an indication that businesses are retaining their workers as the economy improves and often adding to their payrolls.