"Others may get distracted by chasing every fleeting issue that passes by. But the middle class will always be my number-one focus, period," he said in remarks at Ellicott Dredges, a factory that makes equipment for underwater excavation.
He noted that although the rate of unemployment has dropped nationwide and the housing and auto industries are starting to recover, there is still a lot of work to do to build a "rising, thriving middle class."
"We're now poised for progress, but our work is not done and our focus cannot drift," he said. "We've got to stay focused on our economy and putting people back to work and raising wages and bringing manufacturing back to the United States of America."
Obama announced that he's signed a memorandum directing government agencies to overhaul the permitting process which he said will shorten by half the wait time to start federal infrastructure projects. He also urged the workers to push their lawmakers to fight to create jobs.
"Number one, we’ve got to make America a magnet for good jobs. Number two, we’ve got to make sure that workers are able to get the education and skills they need to do those jobs," he said. "Number three, we’ve got to make sure that, if and when you’re working hard, that that leads to a decent living."
Earlier in the day, the president visited Moravia Park Elementary School, which provides comprehensive early education services, such as Head Start, child care and programs to engage parents.
Before returning to Washington, Obama made a stop at the Center for Urban Families. He observed a roundtable discussion with people who had struggled to find work before getting training through the center, which also provided them with recommendations, and some of the employers who'd hired them.
One man talked about how the center helped him when he got out of jail and he's now attending Baltimore Community College to enhance his ability to provide for his two sons.
“You know, one of the biggest challenges – I grew up without a father. You know, I always tell people that -- as great and heroic a job as moms do -- particularly for boys, that’s a hard situation," he said. “For your sons to see you taking this path, that’s going to make all the difference in the world. And in some ways, the fact that you started off a little rocky helps because it can show them how far you came."
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(Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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