Jobs & Votes

, Posted: Fri, February 3 2012 at 8:51 PM, Updated: Fri, February 3 2012 at 8:58 PM

The U.S. economy added 243,000 jobs last month, far more than expected and enough to push the unemployment rate down to 8.3 percent.

It was the biggest single increase in two years.

The White House says it's proof the economy is headed in the right direction.

"This shows me that we are in a mode for a good recovery here, but we still can't lose sight of the many people who are still looking for work," said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

President Obama was pleased with the news.

"The economy is growing stronger. The recovery is speeding up, and we've got to do everything in our power to keep it going," he said. "I want to send a clear message to Congress: Do not slow down the recovery we're on. Don't muck it up."

The president's critics, meanwhile, insist the economy isn't recovering quickly enough.

"The American people were promised by the president that unemployment would not exceed 8 percent, and here we are 36 straight months with unemployment over 8 percent," pointed out House Speaker John Boehner. "I think our point is very simple. We can do better."

Still, it is the seventh straight month of 100,000-plus job creation, which hasn't happened since 2005, and not only was January a banner month, but the Labor Department has revised the November and December numbers upward by 60,000 jobs as well.

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