UPDATE 1-Obama: U.S. starting to ‘turn the corner’ on jobs

* Obama says still ‘long way to go’ to boost employment

* He cites March jobs report as sign of improving economy

* In North Carolina, he also promotes healthcare reform

* Obama sees results on financial reform in several weeks
(Adds Obama comments on financial regulation)

By Matt Spetalnick

CHARLOTTE, N.C., April 2 (BestGrowthStock) – President Barack Obama
hailed new signs of an improving U.S. labor market on Friday as
proof that “we are beginning to turn the corner” but warned it
would still take time to achieve sustained job growth.

Seeking to maintain momentum after lawmakers approved his
cornerstone healthcare overhaul, Obama shifted focus to
tackling high unemployment, a problem threatening to damage his
Democratic Party’s prospects in November’s pivotal
congressional elections.

Obama spoke after a closely watched government employment
report showed that non-farm payrolls grew in March, adding
162,000 jobs, the strongest signal yet that the economic
recovery is moving onto a more solid footing.

“Today is an encouraging day. We learned that the economy
actually produced a substantial number of jobs instead of
losing a substantial number of jobs. We are beginning to turn
the corner,” Obama told workers at a battery components plant
in North Carolina, a key battleground state he won in the 2008
presidential election.

While welcoming the latest report as the best jobs news in
more than two years, he cautioned that there was more work to
be done to boost employment, his top domestic priority.

“It’s not quick and it’s not easy,” he said. “It’s
important to emphasize while we’ve come a long way, we’ve still
got a long way to go.”

The labor market has lagged the overall recovery from the
worst recession since the 1930s, creating a political challenge
for Obama. Unemployment last month remained stuck at 9.7
percent.

But Obama said, “The worst of the storm is over and
brighter days are still ahead.”

He also used his North Carolina visit to promote healthcare
reform, mindful of polls showing many Americans are skeptical
of the sweeping plan after he pushed it through over fierce
Republican opposition.

FINANCIAL REFORM, HIGH POLITICAL STAKES

With the healthcare overhaul largely behind him, Obama is
pushing legislative measures to overhaul financial regulation
in addition to focusing on job creation. He said he expected
results in financial regulations reform soon.

“We’re starting to see a framework emerge both in the House
of Representatives and in the Senate where my hope … is that
we can actually get this done sometime in the next several
weeks,” he said.

With voters nervous over record federal spending, Democrats
are advancing job-creation efforts in a series of small steps
to avoid the sticker shock of last year’s $787 billion stimulus
package.

Obama last month signed into law a bill that includes a $13
billion payroll tax cut for businesses that hire unemployed
workers, and $19.5 billion for highway-repair programs — a
package that liberal Democrats said was disappointingly small.

Other measures pending in Congress would expand subsidies
for state and local construction bonds, extend jobless benefits
through the end of the year, and help states pay the salaries
of teachers and other public employees.

But these measures have been delayed by differences between
the House and the Senate, where Republicans have greater power
to block legislation.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told NBC’s “Today” show
on Thursday that unemployment will remain “unacceptably high
for a long period of time.”

The political stakes are high for Obama, whose approval
rating is down from once-lofty levels amid voter anxiety over
the halting economic recovery, high unemployment and the
divisive healthcare debate.

A Gallup poll released on Thursday showed registered voters
prefer the Republican to the Democratic candidate in their
districts by 47 percent to 44 percent in the mid-term
congressional elections, the first time Republicans have led in
2010 election preferences since Gallup began such weekly
tracking last month.

The poll results came after the House passed the healthcare
legislation on March 21 and Obama signed it into law.

Stock Report

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Washington; editing by
Mohammad Zargham)

UPDATE 1-Obama: U.S. starting to ‘turn the corner’ on jobs