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Obama falters in Gallup poll on economy: what that says about the recovery

A new Gallup poll finds the approval rating for Obama has fallen to 35 percent for his handling of the economy, suggesting public impatience with the pace of the recovery.

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And it is job growth, in particular, that isn’t as speedy as some suggest it should be following a financial crisis of the magnitude the country experienced between 2007 and 2009.

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The Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch reports that the economy has added 121,000 jobs a month in the four years since the recession ended – but specifies that number is “barely enough to keep up with natural growth of the labor force.” And it notes that job creation is usually “much higher” after a “severe recession.” The US should be adding more than 200,000 jobs per month, according to the publication.

Overall, the economy lost 7.4 million jobs during the most recent recession and has recovered 5.8 million in the time since. Those looking for full-time work – 22 million people, according to the WSJ – are finding it tough.

So what we’re seeing there is good but not great. And from a political perspective for the president, perhaps folks are feeling that jobs crunch the most.

“You just have the reality of a very slow recovery with wages stagnant and lots of suffering even though things are turning around a bit,” says Tom Mann, a Brookings senior fellow and congressional expert. “It’s still the case that there’s a lot of concern out there.”

Michael Strain, a resident scholar and economist with the American Enterprise Institute, agrees that the jobs issue is a foremost variable for those weighing presidential performance.

While Obama is talking a lot about the economy, Mr. Strain says, he is investing much of his capital in long-view endeavors to improve it – health-care reform and green energy research and development, among other projects. The focus, he says, should be on the approximately four million people who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more; these people are called the long-term unemployed. And they become less employable every day.

“The president is running around talking about how we can help address long-term slow burning problems facing the middle class, when instead he should be addressing immediate short-term problems facing the unemployed,” Strain says.

Brookings’ Mr. Mann cautions, though, that too much should not be read into the Gallup numbers. Where the economy is concerned, the bully pulpit of the White House can be overrated, he says.

Mann believes Obama’s sliding numbers reflect a general public concern, but not necessarily dissatisfaction with anything the president has or has not done. And he says Republican leaders in the House share as much blame for the state of the economy for refusing to work with the president around some of these key matters.

“If I were the president I wouldn’t take this too seriously, that the odds are these [numbers] will bounce around,” Mann says of the Gallup poll. “It will depend very much on two things. The real economy and whether things pick up or slow down, and what the jobs situation and housing situation looks like.”

“It will also depend on how these insane battles this fall will play out” between Congress and the White House, he adds.

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