AUSTIN, Texas —
The emphasis on jobs and on the needs of the middle class comes amid signs that the economy is continuing to recover, that the private sector is hiring, though not at an optimal rate, and that the stock market is maintaining a record setting pace. But Obama is not necessarily benefitting from those trends, and hidden behind the positive numbers are stagnant wages, reduced working hours and low-wage hiring. What's more, with a 7.5 percent unemployment rate, nearly 12 million Americans are out of work.
An Associate Press-GfK poll last month showed that the percentage of the public that believes the country is headed in the wrong direction has been rising as has the percentage of people who disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy.
"We've got to make sure that middle-class wages and incomes are also going up, because most families haven't seen their take-home pay rise for years now," he said.
He said many families still need help refinancing their mortgages to take advantage of low rates.
Addressing persistent fiscal issues, including broad based budget cuts that the government is now confronting, he said: "Our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in years, but now we've got to budget in a smarter way so it doesn't hurt middle-class families or prevent us from making the critical investments that we need for your future."
Obama reiterated his push for college affordability measures and expanded preschool, points he made during his State of the Union speech in February.
The White House also used the trip as an opportunity to launch administrative initiatives to demonstrate continued action even as his bigger proposals find opposition in Congress.
Among the initiatives is a competition to create three new Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, partnerships among businesses, universities and government to help U.S.-based manufacturers and workers create good jobs. Five federal agencies — the Defense, Energy and Commerce departments, NASA and the National Science Foundation — are putting $200 million toward the effort.