About 70 people awaited him in the backyard, where Mr. Obama got an earful. One woman told him that her 24-year-old son had “campaigned furiously for you and was very inspired by your message of hope,” but is now out of college and struggling to find a job.

Another said she had “great concerns about your health care bill.” A priest told of an unemployed parishioner. A small-business owner expressed irritation with the president’s plan to raise taxes for people earning more than $250,000, to which Mr. Obama, showing his own flash of own irritation, replied: “Your taxes haven’t gone up in this administration.”

The questions were so downbeat that at the end of the hour-long session, Mr. Obama tried to pick up the mood.