WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama delivered a statement on the economy on Friday, linking the European crisis to the American economy.
He argued that decreased European demand will affect American businesses.
"It is in everyone's interest for Greece to stay in the Eurozone while respecting its commitments for reform," he said. "Their hardships will likely be worse if they choose to exit from the Eurozone."
"We've created 4.3 million jobs in 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone," he said. "The private sector is doing fine," said Obama, "Where we are seeing weaknesses in our economy had to do with state and local government, often times cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government, and who don't have the same flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in."
GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's campaign seized on the president's "doing fine" line.
"The 23 million Americans who are struggling for work are not ‘doing fine.’ Job creators and small businesses are not ‘doing fine.’ The middle class is not ‘doing fine,’" spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement.
On a factual level, the remark is defensible -- the country has added about 4.2 million private sector jobs since early 2010 according to BLS data while about 607,000 jobs have been lost in the public sector. But given the weak economy, the line is likely to be fodder for GOP attack ads.
The president also urged Congress to pass legislation to create jobs by aiding state and local workers and called for more infrastructure spending.
"Given signs of weakness in the world economy, it is critical that we take the actions we can to strengthen the American economy," he said.
Obama said Europe needed "sensible ways to deal with debt," but also urged a "parallel discussion ... about how do we also encourage growth."
The president said that he was in regular contact with European leaders. "We've tried to be constructive, and not frame it us as scolding them and telling them what to do, but giving them advice," he said. "What we can do is prod, advise, suggest, but ultimately they're going to have to make these decisions."
Responding to former President Bill Clinton's earlier characterization of the Eurozone crisis, Obama cautioned against "engaging in too much austerity too quickly," citing that it would make it harder for European countries to pay off their debts.
"That's the pattern that Europe is in danger of getting into," he said.
Obama's news conference comes at the end of a difficult week for the president. According to the jobs report released last Friday, the U.S. economy added only 69,000 jobs in May, while the unemployment rate rose from 8.1 percent to 8.2 percent, its first increase in 11 months.
The president also finds himself in an increasingly tight race with Romney. The former Massachusetts governor out-raised Obama by $16 million last month, according to fundraising numbers released by both campaigns on Thursday. It is the first time Romney's campaign raised more cash than Obama's. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) survived a recall election Tuesday in which the president lukewarmly endorsed his opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D).
The president's last press conference was in March.