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Obama Focuses on Jobs, Wages in State of the Union

Anyone combing through President Obama's State of the Union address hoping for a hint on housing policy in the year ahead surely came away disappointed.

In his speech Tuesday night, the president only directly mentioned housing twice: first to describe the market as "rebounding" and again to demand from Congress "legislation that protects the taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing crisis ever again."

While the second might be seen as a nod toward legislative movements to abolish Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the topic wasn't explored any further.

Instead, much of Obama's focus went toward addressing wage stagnation.

While home prices have experienced a rapid rise over the last two years, household incomes have been slow to follow.

Citing historically low minimum wages, the president called for Congress to "give America a raise" by lifting the minimum to $10.10--a move he vowed to make for federal workers via Executive Order.

"America does not stand still—and neither will I," he said.

Also on Obama's mind Tuesday was the country's unemployment situation, which looked grim as of the end of December: a 6.7 percent unemployment rate as more Americans abandoned their search for work.

"I'm ... convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today's economy," the president said, before adding a jab at lawmakers: "But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people."

Senate Democrats and Republicans are reportedly in a stalemate over possible legislation to extend unemployment benefits, according to The Hill.

The unemployment remark wasn’t the only shot Obama took at Congress. He also chastised lawmakers for the gridlock that led to October’s partial federal government shutdown.

He did strike a more hopeful tone, however, when discussing December’s bipartisan budget deal.

"Nobody got everything they wanted, and we can still do more to invest in this country's future while bringing down our deficit in a balanced way," the president said. "But the budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises."

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