ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. (AP) — President Barack Obama on Friday cast the state of the economy in upbeat terms, declaring that it was headed in the right direction even as employers slashed payrolls last month for the first time in half a year as temporary census jobs ended.
The net job loss was driven by the expected end of 225,000 temporary census jobs. But private sector hiring was actually up by a total of 83,000 workers, a positive point emphasized by Obama. He noted that such private hiring was up for the sixth straight month, a turnaround from the first half year of 2009.
The unemployment rate dropped to 9.5 percent.
"We are headed in the right direction," he said. "We're not headed there fast enough for a lot of Americans. We're not headed there fast enough for me, either."
Addressing the millions who are finding the search for work difficult, Obama promised anew to do everything he could.
To that end, Obama announced the latest burst of taxpayer-financed stimulus spending, a nationwide project to expand broadband access in places with little or no reliable Internet service. The president said it would create 5,000 construction jobs in the short term and ultimately benefit "tens of millions" of people.
The new report out Friday suggests businesses are still slow to hire amid a weak economic recovery.
Massachusetts is set to receive $45 million in federal stimulus dollars to expand broadband access in the largely rural western part of the state.
The $45 million grant will be matched with an additional $26 million to deliver affordable, high speed Internet access. The grant calls for constructing more than 1,300 miles of new fiber.
The Massachusetts Technology Park, which received the grant, estimates that the project will create hundreds of jobs.
The project could improve Internet access for more than 1 million residents and thousands of businesses.
A telephone cooperative and the Montana State Library will receive stimulus money to expand high-speed Internet service on the Crow Indian Reservation and at 42 public libraries.
The White House announced the $21 million in grants and loans Thursday.
Project Telephone, a subsidiary of Nemont Telephone Co-op of Scobey, received $14.5 million in grants and $5 million in loans to expand high-speed Internet in Lodge Grass and Crow Agency. It will also connect Pryor, St. Xavier and Fort Smith to existing networks near Billings.
The state library received $1.8 to help finance a $2.7 million proposal to expand internet access at the libraries. Bob Cooper, director of statewide library resources, says the money will be used to buy computers and for higher speed Internet connections.
Vermont's top elected officials say the state is poised to get $47 million to help expand high-speed Internet access in the state.
U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and Gov. Jim Douglas say it will be the largest public investment in broadband infrastructure ever made in Vermont.
The funds are part of a $7.2 billion investment in broadband infrastructure contained in the federal stimulus bill. The White House says $2.7 billion in loans and grants have been awarded so far.
In Vermont, the grants are going to the Vermont Telecommunications Authority and the Vermont Telephone Company.
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