WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama, seeking to clarify comments about the strength of the U.S. economy, said later Friday it is "absolutely clear" that the U.S. economy is "not doing fine."

Obama spoke hours after saying in a White House news conference that "the private sector is doing fine." Republicans pounced on those comments, saying they showed Obama had a lack of understanding about the nation's economic woes.

The president said later he knows the economy "needs to be strengthened." He says that while there has been some "good momentum" in the private sector, Congress needs to act to help boost jobs in the public sector.

He says there is no good reason why Congress won't act on his public sector proposals "other than politics."