The Federal Reserve has forecast the economy will grow at a clip of about 3 percent this year, after five years of average growth of less than 2 percent after the financial crisis. Housing has climbed out of its slump, the energy industry is booming, the financial sector has recovered along with lending, and manufacturing is at least crawling, with a vibrant automobile industry.
Compared with the rest of the world, this is a great American comeback story. Europe is struggling; there are increasing worries about China. And Russia, despite its swagger, is an economic basket case, with a gross domestic product smaller than that of Brazil and about the same size as Italy’s.
But there’s a darker side to the American picture. The underemployment rate — which includes the jobless, those working part-time for economic reasons and those who want a job but have quit looking — was at 12.7 percent in March. Average hourly earnings have been essentially stagnant for the past five years.
This bothers Obama, as it should. Yet his attempts to tell this tale of two cities produce a disjointed narrative and a sense of a president still in campaign mode.