1/19: At Long Last? Well, Sort of …

By Barbara Carvalho

While official calculations 18 months ago cited the definitional end to the recession, an economic gloom has hung over the nation … until now.  According to the latest Marist Poll, a light has broken through the overcast economic forecast.  Mind you, the numbers aren’t exactly rosy, but they do represent a departure from what we’ve been seeing.

carvalho-caricature-430Although the overwhelming majority of Americans continue to think we are still mired in the recession, there has been a decline in the number from 79% in December to 71% currently.  This is nothing to write home about, but in the world of the economist, directional change counts.

More dramatic is the view that we’ve turned the economic corner.  54% of Americans nationally tell us the worst is behind us, and only 39% think the worst is yet to come.  Compare this current Marist finding with what we observed only last month.  This represents a flip from the pre-holiday figures when 39% thought the worst was behind us, and 53% believed the worst was yet to come.

The direction of the economy is a good barometer of how incumbents are faring.  So, is it any surprise that President Obama’s approval rating is on the rebound from his November shellacking?  And, under the heading of having your cake and eating it too, voters still blame President Obama’s predecessor for the country’s economic woes.

Does this now signal a new political climate? Probably not.  The jobs picture remains problematic despite the overall drop in unemployment from 9.8% to 9.4% in the latest government figures.  Drilling down, we see that the increase in jobs isn’t keeping pace with population growth, and the decline in unemployment is largely the result of Americans exiting the work force.   Such as it is, this remains, like digging out from the two previous recessions, largely a jobless recovery.  And, economic forecasts suggest this trek back to normal will take even longer to get on firmer footing.