Pethokoukis, Economics, U.S. Economy

If the US economy really is getting better, why is Obama getting more unpopular?

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Great news: the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell to to a seasonally adjusted 320,000 last week, the US Labor Department says. That’s the lowest level since October 2007. In other words, the American job market is at its healthiest level since before the Great Recession, at least by this one measure. (See above chart, courtesy of Calculated Risk.)

Yet at the same time, pollster Gallup tells us, “Despite President Barack Obama’s renewed focus on the nation’s economy this summer, he scores worse with Americans on the economy than he did in June. His approval rating on the issue, now 35%, is down seven percentage points, and his ratings on taxes and the federal budget deficit are each down five points.” Moreover, Obama’s overall job approval rating dipped three points between the June and August surveys, from 47% to 44%.

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So why the apparent disconnect? Well, the jobless claims measure is just one way of gauging the economy. Other metrics show stagnation rather than acceleration. For instance, here is the employment-population ratio, which simply measures what share of the non-incarcerated, not-military portion of the population is working at any job:

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Is that all because America is getting older and more and more prefers leisure to work? Surely, America didn’t suddenly get a lot older since the Great Recession, like in that Star Trek original series episode when, as Wikipedia puts it, “strange radiation exposes the command crew of the Enterprise to the effects of rapid aging.”

Or maybe it’s also that too many jobs are part-time gigs. This chart show the share of the US workforce that is currently part-time remains highly elevated:

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Or maybe it’s also that take-home pay is barely growing:

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True, none of these trends is new. But maybe it’s the cumulative impact of a glacially slow recovery that has yet to return America to prosperity. While some Washington elites want America to accept the New Normal – don’t whine, by happy — clearly the nation remains deeply dissatisfied. Pointing out that the eurozone is doing much worse is of little comfort. Maybe things have reached a tipping point where we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. Instead of talking so much about wealth redistribution, maybe the president — and Congress, for that matter — should focus more on wealth creation.

8 thoughts on “If the US economy really is getting better, why is Obama getting more unpopular?

  1. Obama perhaps deserves the low rating—he has appointed many FOMC board members who are keeping the money supply too tight.
    With robust economic growth look for better job news—but the Fed will have to become more pro-growth.

  2. Hmm,

    Earlier this week you were commenting how the Fed’s artificially inflating wealth assets had us on the road to recovery.

    • who can afford a house at $270,000, not the middle class; inflation they tell us is low; really; why gasoline is
      $3.59; lies; why salaries are going lower; insurance higher, more tolls, less benefits, cancel work bonuses;
      yeap; Washington dc, wallstreet, and FED are disconnected from main street; and why our dollars are worthless more; and deposits in a bank earn zero, while they want savers, and at the expense of old ones who had save; if they think main street likes wallstreet; and
      we forgot about what they did? They must think americans are idiots; they sell us the idea that is a crisis, crisis, crisis; forget it; we know what is really going on; today getting pay in dollars is worthless; we are working for devalue money; worthless; buys less; and less; and that is why 1 in 5 is in need of food stamps;
      is a matter of time before we really crash; or did we in 2007; do I trust my bank; not really. Realstate is back in a bubble and $/Hour of the middle class cannot support this prices; is insanity at its best. later, and good luck believing their lies.

  3. I would say after 4 years of layoffs there just isn’t anyone else that can be laid off to improve efficiency – and companies are just doing replacement hiring.

  4. It occurs to me, as I sit in the rape and ruin of what used to be my town, that perhaps those people charged with safeguarding our well being have failed. Either by design or dysfunction our national apparatus have failed allowing our nation to spawn the one dark thing our forefathers feared the most, an aristocracy.
    Yes that one percent of our population that have finally maneuvered themselves to lofty positions of wealth and power from which they might never be removed. While the rest of us have to make due with less, be happy with the new ‘normal’. Bow our heads and accept what ever base pay jobs we can get, ‘if’ we can get them.
    Our homes taken from us, our careers a thing of the past our children left with a dismal future. I fail to understand the ‘upside’ everyone is seeing here!? Please tell me just ‘how’ to see this in a good way! It feels like 1798.

  5. Small business are failing, people are looking for food bargains, keeping their cars “just a few more years”, other signs that this country and its economy are going
    DOWN. I, for one am tired of being lied to. No one tells the truth in the White House because the current resident does not want to step on any billionaire toes. He gets dramatic at the podium, but then goes golfing. He is our “leader”, but he is not leading us to an improved life. Why are we being lied to?

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