President Obama said Feb. 5, that the U.S. economy is the currently "the strongest, most durable" in the world. (Reuters)

Highlighting new figures showing a drop in unemployment and a rise in wages, President Obama claimed credit for progress in the economy on Friday and condemned Republican presidential candidates who talk down the economy’s performance.

“The United States of America right now has the strongest, most durable economy in the world,” Obama said. “I know that’s still inconvenient for Republican stump speeches.” But, he added, “I guess you cannot please everybody.”

“After reaching 10 percent in 2009, the unemployment rate has now fallen to 4.9 percent even as more Americans joined the job market last month,” he said, citing new Labor Department figures issued earlier Friday. “Americans are working.”

Obama said that “we should be proud of the progress we’ve made.”

At the same time, he acknowledged that there was more work to do.

“There’s no doubt that while we have made significant progress... there’s still anxiety and concern about the general direction of the economy,” he said. That could be, in part, a “hangover” from the trauma of the 2008-09 recession, Obama said. “Even though they know things are better, they’re worried about where we’re going,” he said.

Obama made the comments and took two questions in a rare appearance at the beginning of the White House daily press briefing.

He also defended his proposal to impose a $10 a barrel tax on oil, which he said would go to infrastructure and “clean energy” research and mass transit. “I think we’ll look back and say that was a smart investment,” he said.