President Barack Obama justified his stewardship of the U.S. economy Thursday, saying that by every measure the nation is better off now than when he took office in 2008. He also outlined three economic policy priorities for the last two years of his administration.

The American economy was eliminating a net 800,000 nonfarm jobs a month in 2008 and is now adding a net 200,000 a month, while unemployment has fallen from a high of 10 percent in 2009 to a current 6.1 percent, he said.

“It is indisputable that our economy is stronger today than it was when I took office,” the president said in a speech to Northwestern University business students. “At the same time, it’s also true that not enough Americans feel the benefits of the economy in their own lives. This progress has been hard, but it’s been steady and been real,” crediting the progress to “the American people’s drive and determination, and the decisions made by my administration.”

The speech comes a day before the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report and as a recent Politico poll of more than 900 likely voters found that nearly a third of Americans said their personal financial affairs are worse than they were a year ago. Only 26 percent said they had improved. According to Gallup, only 35 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s handling of the economy.

Obama acknowledged that many Americans are dissatisfied, saying that middle-class families are earning about the same income today as they did in 1997.

Calling middle-class jobs the “rock” of the economy, the president laid out three “cornerstone” policies to boost the economy: investments in energy technologies, including oil, wind and solar; education of children and workers; and health-care reform that cuts costs.

“None of these policies on their own will get us to where we want to be, but if we do these comprehensively … more people will feel the recovery instead of reading about it in the newspaper,” he said.