WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama painted an optimistic portrait of the economic landscape during 2014 during a press conference Friday afternoon.
The president highlighted reports that the economy grew at a 4.1 percent annual rate from July through September, higher than previously believed.
Obama also voiced support for proposed legislation that would extend unemployment benefits by three months. The benefits expire later this month for about 1.3 million Americans.
He said, "2014 could be a breakthrough year for America."
The economic news, while modest, has been a glimmer of light for Obama in an otherwise difficult year.
Still, the president said he is not brooding about the setbacks during the past year. As long as the economy is improving and he's helping families, he told reporters, he's OK.
Obama's approval rating has been at record lows recently. But he joked that in the seven years since he launched his presidential campaign, the media has, quote, "recorded 15 near-death experiences."
"If I was interested in polling, I wouldn't have run for president," he also joked.
About the National Security Agency, Obama said he has not yet made any decisions about the collection programs. However, he offered the first indication that he may be willing to change some parts of the controversial program that collects and stores Americans' phone records. He says there may be "another way of skinning the cat."
One reform could be to stop the practice of government storing phone records for five years and shift that storage to phone companies.
Obama offered a broad defense of the surveillance programs that have been revealed in documents leaked by a former NSA systems analyst.
The comments came during the last scheduled press conference of 2013. Obama joked it was, "The most wonderful press conference of the year."