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Why Americans are down on Obama when the economy is up

Over the last six years the economy has rebounded and bounced back from what many refer to as the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Though that is the case, you wouldn't know it by the outlook of many Americans.

President Barack Obama takes reporters' questions during a news conference at the conclusion of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit
President Barack Obama takes reporters' questions during a news conference at the conclusion of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The unemployment rate is 6.2 percent, down nearly 4 points from the high of 10 percent in October of 2009. The stock market now hovers over 16,000, more than double what it was when President Obama was sworn in as president in 2009. The economy has seen 53 straight months of private sector job growth, and six straight months of a net gain of 200,000 jobs or more produced by private businesses. This all is a welcome improvement since the end of 2009 and 2010, but if it's such obvious good news, why are so many Americans still pessimistic?

According to a CBS News poll released on Wednesday, 54 percent of Americans disapprove of how President Obama is handling the economy, compared to only 40 percent who approve. The newest jobs report was another mostly positive one, but Americans still don't seem convinced. CNN Money reports that of the 8.7 million jobs that were lost during the financial crisis, all were returned earlier this year. The industries that were hit the hardest, manufacturing and construction, have been making significant gains over the last six months with 99,000 jobs being added in the manufacturing sector and 114,000 construction jobs been created since January.

While this news seems positive, not all the news is good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 7.5 million workers are doing so in part-time positions because they were unable to find a full time job. There are still 3.2 million long term unemployed, those looking for work for more than 27 weeks. That number has dropped by 1.1 million over the last year, but it's still enough to put a dark cloud over the economy in the eyes of the American people. The number of "marginally attached" workers or potential workers is 2.2 million. Of that number, 741,000 are considered discouraged, those who don't look for work because they don't believe their are any jobs available. The remaining 1.4 million didn't look for work due to other responsibilities such as school or other family obligations.

Another reason why economic morale might be down is wages. The average hourly wage in the private sector is $20.61, an increase of 2 percent over the last 12 months. Though a full time worker at this wage would earn a yearly salary of just over $41,000 a year, most Americans don't seem to be feeling the optimism. The federal minimum wage, which gets much attention in Washington and in the news, hasn't been raised since 2009 and currently sits at only $7.25 an hour.

Republicans have put their foot down on many issues and have played defense well enough over the last six years to keep the American people skeptical about the Obama administration. Republicans have a political advantage over the Democrats and Obama because it's easier to play defense and wait, than it is to put ideas on the table, enact them, and defend them whether they work or not.

Though this strategy seems to work on a local level, Republicans are expected to make gains in both the House and Senate during the mid term elections this November, it doesn't seem to be holding up for the party as a whole. The CBS poll shows that while only 41 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the Democrats, that number is down to 29 percent when it comes to seeing Republicans in a positive light.

The economy is moving forward, but it's doing it at a pace that most Americans are not happy with. As the dysfunction in Washington continues between both parties, the President of the United States will ultimately be the person who gets the most blame. Like a quarterback in football, the president will get too much credit when times are good, and too much blame when times are bad, for President Obama, he better hope things get better quickly.