WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is highlighting recent economic bright spots while taking care not to overstate a recovery that still has not lifted millions out of joblessness.

His Republican rivals acknowledge that there's been improvement. But they say Obama's policies have been a drag on a recovery that could have taken hold sooner.

There have been positive indicators in areas ranging from retail sales and housing to unemployment and falling gas prices. But the European debt crisis is casting a pall over these domestic gains, and many Americans have yet to see the benefits.

Obama cites months of private sector job growth. But, he says, "It's not happening as fast as it needs to."