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Economy Has Improved but Voters Don't Believe It: 538's Casselman

Economy Has Improved but Voters Don't Believe It: 538's Casselman

By    |   Monday, 16 November 2015 06:00 AM

U.S. voters must be living in some parallel reality marred by economic recession – how else to explain their somber mood amid a growth in commercial activity?

“The economy is, by virtually any measure, drastically improved from when President Obama took office nearly seven years ago,” writes Ben Casselman, chief economics writer at FiveThirtyEight. “And yet poll after poll reveals a national electorate that is deeply skeptical of that progress.”

Such voter disaffection has spurred the popularity of anti-establishment candidates for president, including real estate developer Donald Trump and self-described socialist Bernie Sanders.

“Americans are pessimistic about the economy because, for many of them, the economy hasn’t gotten better,” Casselman writes. “Unemployment is down, but incomes are flat. Millions of Americans left the labor force in the recession and haven’t returned. Millions more are stuck in low-wage jobs or are working part time because they can’t find full-time work.”

Household income shrank to $53,657 in 2014 from $55,312 in 2008 when adjusted for inflation, but some economists attribute that decline to smaller household size. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell to 5 percent in October from a 26-year high of 10 percent in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But the number of people who are working part-time because they can't find a full-time job was 5.8 million in October, compared with the pre-recession level of 4.6 million. That number peaked at 9.2 million in April 2010.

Gross domestic product was estimated to have grown by 2 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis's inflation-adjusted reading. The economy has averaged 3 percent growth a year, including recessions, in the post-War period. Excluding recessions, growth is 3.8 percent.

Meanwhile, the manufacturing industry never regained its pre-recession peak, with worker activity the lowest in 75 years.

In interviewing Davenport, Iowa residents, Casselman found that factory workers were having the greatest struggles.

“At a job fair held at the Blong Center, I met Cassandra Osborn, who was shaking her head in frustration,” Casselman writes. “A 33-year-old mother of three, Osborn had more than a decade of experience in CNC machining, exactly the kind of manufacturing skills that politicians and local officials often say the U.S. needs more of. Yet she had been out of work for a year and a half and saw little evidence that her skills were in demand.”

A former ironworker who expressed distrust for Washington said trade deals with foreign countries killed U.S. manufacturing.

“The economy is just one-sided as hell,” he told Casselman. “No matter what Wall Street’s doing, for the common man, things aren’t getting any better.”

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U.S. voters must be living in some parallel reality marred by economic recession - how else to explain their mood amid a growth in commercial activity?
economy, voter, jobs, 538
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2015-00-16
Monday, 16 November 2015 06:00 AM
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