Seizing on news of another drop in the unemployment rate, President Obama Friday urged Congress to extend a payroll tax holiday for workers and spur the economic recovery even as he called for more than $5 billion in new spending.

“I want to send send a clear message to Congress: Do not slow down the recovery that we’re on,” Mr. Obama said. “Don’t muck it up. Keep it moving in the right direction.”

The president traveled across the Potomac to Fire Station #5 in Arlington, Va. to promote a plan to hire more veterans as first-responders. His remarks came on the same morning that the government reported the national unemployment rate had dropped to 8.3 percent, down from 8.5 percent in December.