President Obama described the state of the country as “not terrible” to supporters on Wednesday during a speech meant to spark optimism one day after he gave his final State of the Union address.
Speaking to a crowd in Omaha, Nebraska, Obama was touting his economic record by citing America’s dropping unemployment rate when he made the statement.
“Our national unemployment rate has been cut in half,” Obama told the audience, drawing loud cheers. “It’s down to five percent. It’s below three percent here in Nebraska. So, our starting point has to be: things are not terrible.”
The president also said the United States is in the middle of the “longest streak of private sector job creation in history,” adding that 14 million new jobs have been created.
The most recent jobs report places the national unemployment rate at five percent and says the U.S. added 292,000 jobs in December, but some economists say the unemployment rate is actually much higher and the country is experiencing slow growth. They argue the unemployment rate does not account for Americans who have stopped looking for jobs and dropped out of the labor force, which would raise the unemployment rate, and also that the recovery after the 2008 recession has been much slower than past recoveries.
President Obama’s comment comes as the DOW Jones Industrial Average has plummeted since the start of 2016 and the situation overseas is becoming increasingly dangerous, according to analysts.
Iran captured a group of American sailors the day of the president’s State of the Union address, who have since been released, and the Islamic State carried out a terrorist attack in Istanbul, Turkey also on Tuesday, primarily killing Europeans. Critics of the president argue he has downplayed what they view as America’s eroding standing in the world amid increasing threats, a point Obama rejects.
One day prior to assessing how the condition of the country is “not terrible,” the president struck a similar tone during an interview in which he said he regrets how the U.S. has become more divided during his presidency. He added optimistically that the country is more united than it was during the Civil War.