Help wanted signPlans to create jobs and restore American competitiveness will be the centerpiece of President Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday night. And understandably so, given the elevated level of unemployment and gloomy national mood.

But while the angst over jobs has led to soaring political rhetoric, investors would do well to take a more sober look at the issue. Despite dire proclamations from both sides, a healthy economic turnaround may already be underway in the U.S.

Critics on the right have accused the Obama administration of creating an environment hostile to business and harmful to job growth. Those on the left have bemoaned the economic stimulus measures and Fed policies as inadequate for restarting robust growth and job creation.

The reality, though, is that the jobs picture has been quietly brightening behind the rhetoric, thanks to a strong economic recovery. Indeed, America may already be more competitive than the political posturing lets on.

Better Fundamentals Are Driving Business Decisions

The latest indication that hiring may be about to further accelerate came from a National Association for Business Economics survey of 84 of its member businesses. The percentage of businesses planning to expand payrolls in the next six months outpaced those planning to shed jobs by 35 points, the highest pace since the question was first asked a decade ago.

Much has been made of President Obama's supposedly pro-business turn lately. And some House Republicans were quick to try taking credit for the healthier outlook by saying they helped usher in more business certainty, according to reports.

But, according to the NABE release, the "majority of respondents anticipate no increase or decrease in investment spending or employment in response to new tax policies, suggesting business decisions are being driven by the fundamentals of the improving economy."

Businesses do have plenty to be optimistic about. Profits and share prices have delivered a prolonged surge, defying once-pervasive predictions that the U.S. had entered a dark new economic era. Employment, too, has fared far better than the dire rhetoric would convey.

Job openings soared to 4.7 million at the end of the year according to some Internet sites. Despite the hand-wringing, job growth is already outpacing that posted at the end of the prior two recessions. And upward revisions to monthly government figures may indicate that job growth has been even more robust because government employment measures tend to underestimate during upturns.

Needed: A Surgical Approach to Job Growth

But if anything is more predictable than job growth following an economic recovery, it may be the overreaching pessimism that precedes it.

"Remember the jobless recovery of the Bush years? A few years later, it turned out that job growth was pretty good, at least compared with initial estimates," wrote the often bearish money manager John Mauldin in a research report this month. "But did anybody care three years later?"

Some problems like long-term unemployment continue to be deeply troubling. But rather than a wholesale American renewal, what's needed is a surgical approach instead. For example, training and investments in education can help the U.S. labor force get into the hefty number of positions that are already open.

Plenty of media attention will no doubt be lavished on President Obama's words about his economic and jobs outlook. And both parties will try to take credit for any turnaround that does materialize. But despite the posturing in Washington, there's less to it than meets the eye. Job growth is simply following in the wake of a prolonged economic expansion -- as it has in the past.

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dbcooperlives

WOW! The proce of crude startes climbing eight after his speech, This should create more jobs for someone, only not in America. I'll believe what he says when I see it.

January 26 2011 at 6:43 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
shutuplyinglibs

LOL we got 9.4% unemployment and it has been that way for over 20 months. Libs there is a new congress in town and Obamacare will not get funded.

January 26 2011 at 6:21 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Robert & Lisa

Socialism is the agenda and the ultimate goal of the evil, ultra rich who support Obama and the Democrats. That way they control all of our natural resources, wealth and power, leaving everyone else in poverty. You have no further to look than our neighbor to the south, Mexico to see how that works. They boast of being the largest producer of silver, with plenty of oil, and the richest man in the world, yet their average worker makes less than 6 dollars a day.

January 26 2011 at 3:23 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
ha6ai

The only way the economy will recover is if Obama and Demos are voted out in 2012 (and in the meanwhile, stopping Obamacare and Obama's regulatory cap-and-tax).

January 26 2011 at 2:28 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Frank

Come down here to Florida and tell us everything is fine.....and we are in a strong recovery. Housing is a joke...unless your a foriegn investor with cash, jobs are non-existent and for what jobs that do become available the companies screw you so bad because they know they can.

January 25 2011 at 8:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
richard

The economy is ready to expand. The real tip-off was the republican victories in the last election. That gave business some confidence. Then came the tax compromise. Now it looks as though the health care bill will either be repealed or, more likely, reduced. It all means more confidence for business and more money for them to invest.

January 25 2011 at 7:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
justthe2ofus

I am well prepared for King Hussiens speech tonite.......plenty of pepto bismol,,,tums,,,anti-acid tablets,,,and of course the trash can beside my chair.

January 25 2011 at 3:51 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
obama fools

JUST KEEP DEINKING YOUR KOOL-AID

January 25 2011 at 1:50 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
patrick dempsey

I believe the phrase 'a day late and a dollar short' are appropriate. Too much government activism in the market is the reason new hiring is a mere trickle. Until employers and markets are convinced government is going to get out of the way, not much with change. Also, Obama is trying to incentivize too many behaviors through tax credits. Like the small biz tax credit for a new hire he rolled out last year. Why would I as a small biz owner, spend $40K in salary and benefits to hire a new employee in order to get a $2K tax credit if I have no more business with which to justify the hire? I am not going to hire in that case because I'll be out $38K. This is where Obama doesn't really understand economics and is wrong to be incentivizing through tax credits.

January 25 2011 at 1:24 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
rodericklavallee

You must be joking!!! There are 24 million companies in the USA and this so called poll of 2000 companies is supposed to represents a legitimate and indocative picture of an improvement in the job outlook for 2011???????

It looks more like a self serving promotional and cheer leadimg effort by an employment company to boost their own job bueiness potential and bought into be a naive writer

You should be ashamad of youreslf as a business analyst and purveyor of business news. This article is down right misleading and repulsive

January 25 2011 at 12:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply