Unemployment rate

Unemployment rate © St. Louis Federal Reserve

The unemployment rate, which hit 10% in October 2009, has dropped below 8%. Yet it is still historically high, at 7.9% as of last month -- a tick above the 7.8% unemployment when Obama took office in 2009

Employment vs. population

Employment vs. population © St. Louis Federal Reserve

The percentage of Americans with jobs is near a 30-year low.

Labor participation

Labor participation © St. Louis Federal Reserve

Discouraged workers have left the job market, although some have returned recently as the employment picture has shown signs of improvement.

Personal income

Personal income © St. Louis Federal Reserve

Even as the jobs market has gotten modestly stronger, real income has been stagnant.

Wages

Wages © St. Louis Federal Reserve

Wages, as a percentage of the overall economy, have fallen to historic lows.

Entitlement spending

Entitlement spending © St. Louis Federal Reserve

With demographic shifts and high unemployment, the government has been spending more and more on entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

Federal debt

Federal debt © St. Louis Federal Reserve

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Another looming problem: The federal debt has ballooned, leading many economists to worry that it will prevent future growth. And the annual budget deficit has been more than $1 trillion in each of Obama's four years in office.

And though Obama and leaders in Congress will need to come up with a long-term plan to address those big budgetary issues, they also have a more immediate problem to solve: the fiscal cliff.

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