The economy may be coming back, but to many Americans, it doesn't feel that way. Or, at least, that's what two recent speeches by a current and a former president suggest.
“Nobody believes it yet,” said Bill Clinton, back home in Arkansas. Meanwhile, President Obama told a crowd in Chicago that “millions of Americans don’t yet feel enough of the benefits where it matters most—and that’s in their own lives.” He said people deserve more from the recovery than “reading about it in stats on a page.”
At a time when the unemployed rate has dropped below 6 percent for the first time since 2008, it might come as a surprise that Obama and Clinton need to warn people that the recovery might not be detectable. And, by certain measures, the presidents are wrong: Surveys from Pew Research Center have found that the percentage of Americans saying jobs are difficult to find has declined steadily over the last four years, roughly tracking the unemployment rate.
Job Situation: Perception vs. Reality
So, in one sense, people are noticing that the economy is doing better. Nevertheless, about 50 percent of Americans still say they feel like the economy is not improving.
How can this be? For one, while it may be the best measure out there, the unemployment rate is a rather limited indicator, measuring the percentage of job seekers who are unable to find jobs. The labor-force participation rate, by contrast, measures the percentage of adults who are either employed or actively looking for work. That number has been falling since the recession, from 66 percent in 2007 to around 62 percent today.