By Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 2, 2010; 3:02 PM
CHARLOTTE -- Welcoming news of a burst in March of job creation, President Obama said Friday that the country has turned a corner, and he expressed new optimism that his economic policies have taken hold.
"I've often had to report bad news during the course of this year, as the recession wreaked havoc on people's lives. But today is an encouraging day," Obama said while visiting a manufacturer here.
Obama left Washington, as he often does on days when jobs numbers are announced, to pay a call on Celgard. The advanced battery technology manufacturer has added about 300 jobs in the state after receiving $49 million as part of the federal stimulus package.
After touring the warehouse, Obama used the company as a backdrop to embrace the Labor Department's announcement that 162,000 jobs had been created in March, a report that quickly became the central White House message of the day.
"We learned that the economy actually produced a substantial number of jobs, instead of losing a substantial number of jobs," Obama told several hundred workers, drawing applause. He said that his economic program had helped break "this slide" into recession, bringing the best jobs report in two years.
"This month, more Americans woke up, got dressed and headed to work in an office, a factory, a storefront," he said. "More folks are feeling the sense of pride and satisfaction that comes with a hard-earned and well-deserved paycheck."
In visiting Celgard, Obama sought to highlight the effectiveness of his economic policies. With help from the administration's stimulus package, the company is not only hiring new workers but also expanding its operations making batteries that run more fuel-efficient cars.
"Before I took office, we had the capacity to make less than 2 percent of the world's lithium-ion batteries," Obama said. "In the next five years, on the trajectory we're now on, we're going to be able to make 40 percent of the batteries right here in the United States of America."
That, he said, is an argument for the stimulus package. "Next time somebody asks you at the grocery store, 'What did the recovery act do?' you can tell them one of the things it helped do is expand . . . an entire industry."