Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama cited progress toward economic recovery Monday, but said the pace remained slower than desired.
Speaking to reporters after his first Cabinet meeting since returning from last week's trip to Asia, Obama made clear that reversing the rising unemployment of the past year is the goal of his administration's economic recovery efforts.
"Our economy's growing again, for the first time in more than a year, and we know that economic growth is a prerequisite for job growth," Obama said. "But having said that, what I emphasize today is we cannot sit back and be satisfied, given the extraordinarily high unemployment levels that we've seen."
He called any progress so far "the first step in curing our economy and making sure that it is moving on the right track."
Business profits are rising, Obama said, but due to cost-cutting from the recession rather than increased demand.
"They have learned to produce the same amount of goods with fewer people," Obama said, adding that "all of these things contribute to challenges of creating jobs in this economy."
While the economy grew last quarter for the first time in a year and other indicators are turning positive, unemployment is above 10 percent and polls indicate most Americans are dissatisfied with current economic conditions.
Obama expressed confidence the economy will continue to strengthen and begin creating jobs, but he said the country needs policies now to "bridge" the period from the current difficulties to "that more prosperous future."
On his trip to Asia, Obama said, he discussed ways to increase U.S. exports to the region. Asian governments want more U.S. exports to help meet rising consumer demand in their growing economies, he said.
"If we can just increase our exports by 5 percent in that region, that means hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs," Obama said. However, he cited regulatory issues and currency issues as obstacles to increased exports, adding that "we just haven't been as aggressive as we need to be."
At home, Obama said, polices to revamp infrastructure for a modern economy - including high-speed rail transport and clean energy technology - will help put people back to work. Those ideas and others will be discussed at the December 3 jobs summit he is holding in Washington, Obama said.
The president also acknowledged that at Thanksgiving, it's been a "very difficult year" for many Americans. Referring to his Cabinet sitting with him, he said: "We are extraordinarily blessed that we're in a position that we can make a difference in the lives of millions of people."
"We need to take advantage of that opportunity and redouble our efforts in the months and years to come," Obama said.