More jobs but not more hope

September 12, 2013, 5:44 PM GMT+0

Unemployment may be slowly dropping but Americans are still remarkably gloomy about economic prospects with many thinking unemployment will soon climb again.

The unemployment rate has inched down again – to 7.3% in last week’s report, but Americans have been slow to recognize any improvement in the state of the economy. Looking ahead, Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll are still more pessimistic than optimistic about the future – and as far as they are concerned, Barack Obama should be doing more to create jobs.

Even half of Democrats think the President should be doing more.

Just over a third approve of the President’s handling of the economy, a number that has not risen much even as the rate of joblessness has dropped below what it was when he took office. Joblessness increased throughout President Obama’s first year in office, reaching double digits in October 2009. It remained above 9.0 throughout 2010 and much of 2011, and finally dropped below 8.0 in September 2012, just in time for the 2012 elections.

The President’s job approval on handling the economy declined throughout most of his first term. It was just 28% two years ago. Last September, as the economy started to improve, it rose to 43%. But now, even as the unemployment rate continues to decline, the President’s job approval for his management of the country’s most important problem has too.

Jobs are worrisome. Although more than half of those currently working say they are not very worried personally about losing their own job, most see no improvement in the overall number of U.S. jobs six months from now. Only 18% think there will be more jobs then, while 28% say there will be fewer. Nearly half see no change at all.

And in the somewhat longer term, nearly four in ten think the unemployment rate will be higher two years from now than it is today, and another 22% don’t see any additional movement downwards from what it is now. As might be expected, Republicans have much more negative predictions for the next two years, still within President Obama’s term. More than half of Republicans expect unemployment in two years’ time to be higher than it is today.

Americans had become extremely pessimistic about the economy in late 2011, after more than two years of high unemployment rates. By that time more than half the public expected the economy would keep getting worse. But that percentage was cut in half by early 2012, with the improving jobs picture. Pessimism increased again during the election campaign, but by this June, there was at least as much optimism as pessimism. However, three months later, that is no longer the case. Less than one in four think the economy is getting better in this week’s poll; 29% say things are getting worse.

But many say things – while not going well – aren’t changing. The economy isn’t getting better or worse, it’s just staying the same. And looking ahead five years, nearly half believe there will be a mixture of good and bad times. Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats agree.

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.