Unemployment The Number 1 Problem For Americans, Gallup Poll Says

02/18/2014 07:35 am ET | Updated Feb 18, 2014

Unemployment has retaken its place in Americans' minds as the country's biggest problem, according to a new Gallup poll published Monday.

23 percent now consider unemployment the greatest challenge facing the nation, while only 16 percent said the same in January.

More people named joblessness as the nation's top problem than "government and politicians," which had been the most popular answer among survey respondents since the government shutdown last year.

Before the shutdown, jobs and the economy had topped the list.

The poll was conducted between Feb. 6-9. On Feb. 6, Senate Democrats mounted another unsuccessful attempt to extend long-term unemployment benefits, which lapsed for more than 1.7 million Americans at the end of December.

Only 63 percent of working-age Americans have a job or are actively looking for one -- the lowest share of the population participating in the labor force since 1978. (The population of working-age Americans here includes anyone over the age of 16, including those who have retired and students).

And while the jobless rate fell last month, the drop was due in large part to the long-term unemployed giving up on looking for work.

"Some of this is due to the fact that Baby Boomers retiring -- but only some," HuffPost's Mark Gongloff wrote last month. "Most of it has to do with the fact that the economy is still too weak to create enough jobs to draw people into the market. This is most clearly evident in the fact that younger people are leaving the labor force, too -- or never even entering it -- because they can't find jobs."

Additional information has been added to this article to clarify that retired persons and students are included as part of the total population from which the labor force participation rate is calculated.

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