During his State of the Union address, the President said that the United States has “the strongest, most durable economy in the world.” It was a clear shot across the bow at those who might not be feeling the love at the moment and critics who don’t see things through rose colored glasses. So how is the recovery going? The unemployment rate as defined by the Department of Labor is certainly back down to a manageable number, but that doesn’t really speak to the factors which affect people in their day to day lives.
The Wall Street Journal took at look at the data this week (assembled by the National Association of Counties) and they arrived at a somewhat different conclusion. They examined factors including the total number of people who are actually working, wages and property values. Broken down by county, not even 10% of the nation is back where it was before the crash of 2007 and 2008.
More than six years after the economic expansion began, 93% of counties in the U.S. have failed to fully recover from the blow they suffered during the recession.
Nationwide, 214 counties, or 7% of 3,069, had recovered last year to prerecession levels on four indicators: total employment, the unemployment rate, size of the economy and home values, a study from the National Association of Counties released Tuesday found…
“Americans don’t live in a single economic place,” said Emilia Istrate, the association’s director of research and outreach and one of the study’s authors. “It tells you why many Americans don’t feel the good economic numbers they see on TV.”
Hey, but at least some of the counties have recovered, so that’s good, right? Barack Obama clearly seems to be willing to take credit for that. But where did the decent bits of recovery really take place? Anyone who’s been paying attention to the news won’t be shocked at these figures.
As was the case in 2014, when just 65 counties had fully recovered, most of those that bounced back are in states benefiting from the energy boom. Last year, 72 of the recovered counties were in Texas, the most of any state. Nebraska followed with 22. Minnesota, Kentucky, North Dakota, Montana and Kansas each had at least 10 fully recovered counties.
Meanwhile, in 27 states, not a single county had fully recovered.
So out of 214 counties that recovered in all four categories, 94 of them were found just in Texas and Nebraska. That’s nearly half. More than fifty more of them came primarily from places where heavy fracking and other energy extraction is taking place. With that in mind, Obama might not want to be taking too much credit. In fact, the recovery we’ve experienced – such as it is – has come largely from the energy sector so one could fairly say that it was taking place not because of Barack Obama, but in spite of him.
That could go a long way toward explaining why national approval levels of the President’s handling of the economy are still underwater in double digits. You can post some sunny numbers and give a flowery speech, but when people are still struggling financially in their daily lives and their houses are still worth less than they paid for them they probably aren’t going to buy into the hype.