Despite low unemployment, America's economic worries continue

September 13, 2019, 7:40 PM GMT+0

Last Friday’s jobs report provided some mixed news. Though the unemployment rate of 3.7 percent remained at its lowest in decades, jobs growth was somewhat less than expected. In addition, tariffs increased, and the president’s relationship with the Federal Reserve continued to be testy, at best. The stock market was volatile. The impact on Americans came in the form of increased economic worry. More in this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll say the American economy is getting worse than think it is getting better, a pattern in place for most of the last month.

More than half (55%) of Republicans say the economy is getting better this week, which is down eight points from a week ago, and at the lowest level of economic optimism among Republicans in nearly two years. For the last month, more than half of Democrats have been pessimistic about the country’s economic future.

On a personal level, 38 percent of workers express some concern about losing their jobs, and only 23 percent -- the lowest percentage during the entire Trump administration – expect there will be more jobs in the next six months, and 22 percent expect there will be jobs lost in that period.

This has taken a toll on the president’s approval rating when it comes to handling the economy. Both Democrats and Republicans agree that a president can do a lot about the economy, and only 15 percent think that’s something beyond a president’s control. So when economic worries grow, presidential approval ratings on the economy can drop. For President Donald Trump that matters a lot because the economy has typically been his most positive issue area, and his economic job approval rating has always outpaced his overall approval numbers. The latter is still the case, but for the first time since January, as many Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the economy as approve.

Both Republicans and Democrats dropped fractionally in approval of the president’s handling of the economy this week. Among independents, the change was larger. Last week, independents approved of the way the president was handling the economy by eight points (43% to 35%.) This week, their margin is one point.

Many of the changes appear to have happened as recent news coverage of the economy has become more critical. One month ago, 32 percent of adults said they were hearing mostly positive news about the economy. This week, just 24 percent said that, a drop of eight points. The number hearing mostly negative news rose in the last month, from 18 percent to 23 percent. What one hears sometimes depends on politics and the sources of information, and Republicans remain more than four times as likely as Democrats to say they are hearing mostly positive economic news.

As for the future, about a third of the public thinks the economy will improve if a Democrat wins in 2020, and about the same percentage expect improvement if Trump is re-elected. Democrats are overwhelmingly pessimistic about the future under Trump; two-thirds of Republicans see a worsening economy if a Democrat is elected. But there are more optimistic Republicans than Democrats: 21 percent of Republicans expect an improving economy even if a Democrat is elected and just 8 percent of Democrats say that will happen in a Trump second term.

See the full toplines and tables results from this week's Economist/YouGov poll.

Related: When Trump took office, Republicans’ most important issue was the economy. Now, it’s immigration.

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