Voters go to polls against backdrop of uneven economy
WASHINGTON >> The U.S. economy is lifting job growth and wages but not voters’ spirits.
Americans are choosing a president against a backdrop of slow but steady growth that has managed to restore the economy from the crushing setback of the Great Recession. The government’s October jobs report , released Friday, showed that hiring remains solid, with 161,000 jobs added. The unemployment rate is a low 4.9 percent.
Yet the recovery, the slowest since World War II, has left many Americans feeling left behind, especially those who lack high skills or education or who live outside major population centers.
“The (typical) U.S. household is in a much better spot than they were eight years ago,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “But it hasn’t been a great decade for anyone either. You’ve still got a big chunk of the population who feels this hasn’t worked for them.”
The economy’s weak spots are a top concern for a majority of voters, who say the U.S. economy is in poor shape, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.
At the same time, they say their own personal finances are good.
Fifty-three percent of voters say the economy is “poor,” while 46 percent say “good,” according to the poll, conducted Oct. 20-24. Yet 65 percent say their own finances are good, versus 34 percent who rate them poor.
Seventy-three percent of Hillary Clinton supporters say that economy is good; just 16 percent of Donald Trump supporters say so.
And while 60 percent of whites say the economy is poor, 60 percent of nonwhites call it good. Yet whites and nonwhites are about equally likely to say their own personal finances are good.
Consider 73-year-old Charles Muller, who lives outside Trenton, New Jersey, and describes his personal finances as fine. He has a pension from 26 years as a state employee and receives Social Security.
But the broader economy seems fairly weak to Muller. A friend was laid off during the recession, then earned a teaching certificate, and yet still can’t find a fulltime teaching job. And a friend’s daughter who recently graduated from college is stuck as an assistant manager of a dollar store.
“I know a lot of people who are struggling and have been unable to find jobs commensurate with their education levels,” Muller said. He is supporting Trump, though he sees the major presidential nominees as “the two worst candidates I’ve ever been given a choice of.”