Obama Seeks to Reassure Nation as Economy Darkens

WASHINGTON - As the economy continues to deteriorate, President Obama on Saturday sought to reassure Americans that his efforts to stanch the bleeding will eventually work.

The work week ended on another dour note, with 651,000 more American jobs slashed in February and an unemployment rate climbing to 8.1 percent. That is the highest rate of people out of work in more than 25 years, as the recession continued to put enormous pressures on families and industries.

Obama recapped the work of another hectic week in his young presidency. His goal was to reassure the country that he and his team are taking specific steps to create jobs in the short term and begin to address huge issues, like health care, that affect virtually everyone.

Obama in the past week launched a more detailed plan to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure; unveiled a new credit plan to spur lending for people and businesses; began an overhaul of the way the government hands out private contracts to reduce waste; and held a summit on how to fix the nation's health care crisis.

On the last point, Obama has set a goal of signing a bill this year that would fix the U.S. health care system, which is the costliest in the world and leaves an estimated 48 million people uninsured, plus many others lacking adequate coverage.

"Our ideas and opinions about how to achieve this reform will vary, but our goal must be the same: quality, affordable health care for every American that no longer overwhelms the budgets of families, businesses and our government," Obama said in his weekly radio and video address, taped a day earlier at the White House.

Obama says he is not wedded to a plan on how to fix the problem. But one proposal he has endorsed, giving Americans the option of buying medical coverage through a government plan, is drawing opposition from Republicans.

Republican Rep. Roy Blunt emphasized that point in the Republican weekly radio address.

"I'm concerned that if the government steps in it will eventually push out the private health care plans millions of Americans enjoy today," Blunt said. "This could cause your employer to simply stop offering coverage, hoping the government will pick up the slack."

Obama challenged the nation in his weekly address to not just hang in there but rather to see the hard times as a chance to "discover great opportunity in the midst of great crisis."

"That is what we can do and must do today. And I am absolutely confident that is what we will do," Obama

As the White House takes on so many huge issues at once, Obama is encouraging people to take a longer view, and not get caught up in the fits and starts. The president said in his address that the nation will continue to face difficult days in the months ahead. Still, he ended with hope.

"Yes, this is a moment of challenge for our country," Obama said. "But we've experienced great trials before. And with every test, each generation has found the capacity to not only endure, but to prosper -- to discover great opportunity in the midst of great crisis."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.