Donald Lambro

Gallup reported Thursday that the president's overall job approval rating has now sunk to 45 percent, with 46 percent of Americans saying they disapprove of his performance.

Gallup's national economic tracking numbers tell us why. They put the current unemployment rate at 9.9 percent, and, more ominously, the underemployment rate (which counts discouraged workers who are no longer looking for a job or have been forced to work part-time,) at 19.6 percent.

A recent Gallup poll found that 83 percent of Americans say this is a "bad time" to find a quality job.

I reported in a recent column that, despite Obama's claim that the job picture is improving, half of all states now have unemployment rates of between 9 and 14.2 percent. Ten of these states are above 10 percent.

The overall economy has climbed out of the 2008-09 recession largely because businesses have cut costs, improved productivity and boosted earnings.

But economic growth has been anemic, and 2011 isn't looking any better. Economists who have been making bullish forecasts of higher growth of up to 4 percent are lowering their estimates. A survey of top business economists by CNBC found that nearly 40 percent of them think the economy will be weaker this year.

The reasons: oil prices surging to more than $100 a barrel and are likely to climb higher; gas prices hitting $4 a gallon or more are expected to remain high, hitting every sector of the economy with higher costs that will boost prices across the board, from food to transportation.

Another huge factor threatening the economy's future prosperity, which remains a major issue with voters: uncontrolled government spending, which is nearing $4 trillion annually and running up a $1.6 trillion deficit this fiscal year, bleeding needed investment capital out of the economy.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued a report at the end March that said Obama's spending blueprint would lead to $9.5 trillion in deficits over the next 10 years, $2 trillion more than the White House's estimates. Worse, his budget policies would double the government's national debt held by the public, pushing it to $20.8 trillion by 2021.

They may be ignoring all of this on the nightly network news shows. But ordinary Americans struggling to make ends meet, or still looking for work, know that the economy remains the No. 1 problem facing our country -- and that Obama doesn't know how to fix it.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.