Inside StoryMon-Fri 6:30pm ET/3:30pm PT
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

If the economy is improving, why doesn’t the public feel it?

Unemployment is at its lowest rate since the recession, but American remain frustrated

October is the ninth month in a row to see a net gain of at least 200,000 jobs in the U.S. — the longest period of sustained growth at that pace since 1995.

This month 214,000 jobs were added, according to the Department of Labor. Unemployment dropped to 5.8 percent, the lowest level since 2008. Most positions were added in the retail, health care and food industries.

Overall, it has been a good year for the U.S. workforce. More than 2.3 million jobs have been added this year, according to the Department of Labor, and the number of long-term unemployed people fell by more than a million.

But wages have stagnated, with average earnings rising by only 2 percent this year.

It appears Americans are still not feeling confident. Exit polls on Tuesday found that 45 percent of respondents said the economy topped their list of concerns. That sentiment from Main Street led to Republicans’ gaining the majority in the Senate next term and control of the chamber.

The challenge now for both parties lies in convincing the American people that they should be happy — or at least happier.

Are voters’ views shaped my media and politicians’ negative portrayals of the economy?

What kind of jobs and wage growth would earn the confidence of the public?

How will the upcoming Republican majority in the Senate address voters’ concerns about the economy?

We consulted a panel of experts for the Inside Story.

‘People who have been employed throughout this very slow economic recovery have not seen big raises. Wages are going up 2 percent, so nobody is getting a huge Christmas bonus.’

Tara Sinclair

chief economist, Indeed

Neil Malhotra

Neil Malhotra is a professor of political economy in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. He also holds a courtesy appointment in the department of political science. He has authored over 50 articles on numerous topics, including U.S. politics, political behavior and survey methodology. 

‘Why did Democrats lose, even with the upward trajectory of the economy? We found that it is actually not the economy itself but how the economy is framed by the media that makes a big difference.’

Neil Malhotra

political economy professor, Stanford University

‘There’s a tale of two economies in the U.S. The top line – GDP, overall unemployment rate, the stock market and larger features of the economy are certainly improving. But many Americans aren’t feeling that in their personal lives.’

Seth Harris

former acting secretary of labor

Related News

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter


Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter