Obama promises to focus on jobs in first State of the Union address

President concedes Americans are "hurting" and says employment is his top priority

Barack Obama has said in his first State of the Union address that creating jobs is his main priority. The US president conceded Americans were "hurting" and that his election pledge of change had not come quickly enough.

He vowed to continue efforts to achieve healthcare reform in the wake of the Democrats' extraordinary defeat in Massachusetts. He also defended his bank bailout policy, saying it was necessary to save the economy, but unveiled a spending freeze from 2011 to reduce the budget deficit.

On employment, Obama said: "People are out of work. They are hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay. Jobs must be our number one focus in 2010."

On the economy, he said that the damage caused by the recession continued. "The devastation remains," he said. "One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. For those who had already known poverty, life has become that much harder.

"I know the anxieties that are out there right now. They're not new. These struggles are the reason I ran for president."

In a speech unusually light on foreign policy, Obama said the war in Iraq was ending and "all of our troops are coming home". On Afghanistan, he warned there were "difficult days ahead" but insisted he was confident of success.

 

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