In the current political environment the job market continues to be one of the more important topics.  And, for the first time in months, Americans are indicating that the job market in their region of the country may be improving, albeit slightly.

In January 2012 14% of U.S. adults said that the job market in their region of the country is good, which is up from 9% who said so in October 2011, 11% who said so in September and 12% who said so two months earlier in July 2011.  The number of Americans who call the job market in their region bad has also dropped this month, to 65%, down from 67% who said so in October 2011.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,016 adults surveyed online between January 16 and 23, 2012 by Harris Interactive .Although these numbers are still low overall, with almost two thirds calling the job market in their region bad (65%) and one in five saying it’s neither good nor bad (21%), a minor increase is important, and may be reflective of real change.

Looking across the country it appears that the job markets in the East and South are the best, as 15% and 16% in those regions respectively say that the market there is good, while the Midwest and West may be struggling more€”over two thirds in the Midwest (67%) and West (71%) call the job market in their region bad.

Further evidence that the national job market may be improving is the response seen when Americans were asked how they think the job market in their region will change over the next 6 months.  For the first time since March 2011 more people say that the job market in their region will be better€”27% say so now, compared to 22% in July.  While this number shows an increase, it’s still lower than the three in ten who expected the job market to improve when asked during the first half of 2011 (30%-32% said so between January and May 2011).

Looking by political party there are stark differences in attitudes regarding the future of the job market€”Democrats show significantly more optimism than do either Independents or Republicans.

Fully two in five Democrats expect that the job market will improve over the next 6 months (41%) compared to 24% of Independents and only 14% of Republicans who say the same.  Republicans and Independents are most likely to say that they think the job market will stay the same (56% and 55%).

This optimism about the job market may be related to perceived blame for the state of the economy.  When asked how much each of the following groups are to blame for their financial situation, a large majority of Republicans (84%) and over half of Independents (55%) say they blame the President.  This compares to fewer than one third of Democrats who say the same (30%).  When asked about other groups’ blame for the current financial situation some of the results include:

  • Large majorities of Americans say they blame Congress (81%) and Wall Street (70%) for their financial situation;
  • Two thirds say they blame large corporations (66%), fewer say they blame state government (62%) or the President (56%) and less than half say they blame local government (48%).

Similarly to how partisan differences may account for how much someone blames the President for their financial situation, Democrats are also significantly less likely than both Republicans and Independents to give President Obama negative ratings on his handling of the economy.

Overall one quarter of Americans say President Obama’s handling of the economy is excellent or very good (25%) while three quarters say it is only fair or poor (75%).  These numbers are unchanged since December 2011 despite the other improvements seen in perceptions of the job market.

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