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Unemployment Surpasses 'The Economy' As Country's Biggest Concern: Gallup

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UNEMPLOYMENT
Job seekers line up for a job fair outside the Akron Urban League Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011, in Akron, Ohio. The number of people applying for unemployment benefits last week jumped to the highest level in three months, a sign that layoffs could be increasing. | Associated Press

It's the unemployment, stupid, according to a Gallup poll released Thursday.

Almost 40 percent of Americans said in September that unemployment or joblessness is the biggest issue facing the country, up from 29 percent in August, a Gallup Poll released Thursday shows. Americans now cite unemployment more than "the economy" as the nation's most important problem, the report said.

Not since last November has unemployment surpassed the economy as the top concern of Americans.

U.S. employers added no new jobs in August as the unemployment rate held at 9.1 percent, the Labor Department reported earlier this month. And things aren't poised to pick up any time soon, Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office told a congressional committee earlier this week. Elmendorf said his non-partisan agency predicts the unemployment rate will hover at 9 percent through the end of next year.

Though the unemployment rate has been high for months, politicians may finally be coming to the realization that it's a top concern for voters, especially President Barack Obama, who submitted his American Jobs Act to Congress earlier this week. The bills aims to use a combination of spending and tax cuts to spur job growth.

President Obama's re-election hopes might hinge on how quickly he can get the nation back to work. Ronald Reagan is the only president since World War II to win re-election with an unemployment rate above 6 percent, according to Bloomberg. The jobless rate stood at 7.2 percent on Election Day in 1984.

For their part, some prominent economists in the Obama camp seem to agree with the American public that creating jobs is the key to turning the economy around. Larry Summers, the former director of the White House National Economic Council, wrote in an op-ed in the Financial Times in June that boosting spending, borrowing and lending would help to turn the economy around by increasing demand and creating jobs.

While some other economists are doubting the effectiveness of Obama's plan, many small business owners say that if passed, the proposal would encourage them to hire.

Still, the Gallup poll found that the plan may not be enough to convince Americans that Obama can handle the issue most important to them. More respondents said Republicans are better suited to handle the nation's biggest problem than said Democrats could deal with the issue effectively.

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