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Obama Heads To NC To Push Goals On Economy, Jobs

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(credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Count President Barack Obama among the many who believe that technology-enhanced, 21st-Century manufacturing jobs are key to an economy that offers well-paying employment for middle-class workers.

He’ll promote his ideas for accomplishing that goal in a speech Wednesday at North Carolina State University.

Obama is expected to foreshadow part of his State of the Union Address in two weeks as he tries to restore “the kind of stable, secure jobs that went overseas in the past couple decades,” Obama said in his weekly address last weekend.

In North Carolina, Obama will announce “a new public-private effort to boost advanced manufacturing that attracts the kind of well-paying jobs that sustain a growing middle class,” White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said in an email to supporters on Tuesday.

It’s a message Obama has sounded before. The day after his State of the Union address last year, the president toured a factory near Asheville where Canadian-based auto-parts supplier Linamar had pledged to hire hundreds of workers.

Obama’s visit comes as North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is also emphasizing the manufacturing jobs potential in a state in which about a fifth of the economy comes from making things.

“Creating manufacturing jobs across North Carolina has been a priority within my administration’s economic plan,” McCrory said last month.

There were promising signs in the past year of manufacturing’s place in a rebounding economy.

Computer maker Lenovo Group started manufacturing in the U.S. for the first time, choosing a North Carolina site over low-cost foreign locations like Mexico or China because it meant quicker turnaround and custom products for customers. GE Aviation broke ground on a new factory to produce engine components made of advanced ceramic materials that are ultra-lightweight and can handle extremely high temperatures in jet turbines.

North Carolina Republicans criticized Obama’s failure to fix the economy after the government reported just 74,000 new jobs nationwide in December and a dip in unemployment fueled by people giving up their search for work. They credit GOP state lawmakers and McCrory for decisions that led to a 2 percentage-point drop in the state’s unemployment rate in 2013. The national jobless rate dropped last year by less than 1 percent.

While North Carolina’s November unemployment rate dropped to its lowest rate in more than five years, the data suggest similar worker discouragement. The total number of working-age residents either working or looking for jobs fell by 95,000 in the past year.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan won’t visit with the president as a tough re-election race looms ahead of her this year.

Obama plans to meet with college presidents on Thursday to discuss improving workers’ skills.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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