By Ken Thomas
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Praising manufacturing jobs, President Barack Obama was outlining ways of pairing factory output with university research in a bid to bring jobs back to the U.S. and help companies innovate.
Obama was traveling Friday to a manufacturing plant run by aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce in Prince George, Va., outlining a new proposal to create a series of regional institutes to help manufacturers spur new products and jobs.
The president was making his pitch hours after the government issued its February jobs report, the latest barometer of the economy. The report showed employers created 227,000 jobs last month, though the unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.3 percent.
Obama has highlighted the U.S. economy's addition of more than 400,000 manufacturing jobs during the past two years, touring factories in Wisconsin, Washington state and North Carolina in recent weeks. Political calculations are not far from the surface in these trips - Virginia is expected to be a major election battleground later this year, and the president was ending the day with fundraisers in Houston to stock up on campaign cash.
Obama has pointed to a decline in unemployment and improved fortunes in the manufacturing sector as a sign the economy is improving. Republicans hoping to challenge Obama have accused the president of failing to steer the economy out of the recession and placing obstacles like debt and burdensome regulations in the way of growth.
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