If there's one thing President Obama is adamant about heading into his final year, it's that the U.S. economy has been and continues to be getting stronger.

In his final State of the Union address Tuesday night -- and many times before -- Obama stressed how, under his watch, the United States was pulled back from the brink of a depression and is stronger for it.

"The United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world," he said, ticking off record-setting private sector job creation, the national unemployment rate cut in half and the deficit trimmed by almost three-quarters.

[Barack Obama, the jobs president that Republicans were looking for?]


(Philip Bump/The Washington Post)

But for every economic indicator measuring the health of the economy, there are even more ways to analyze how our economy is truly doing. This is the biggest knock on the Obama economy (and one Obama himself acknowledges has merit): that the recovery has been very good for the wealthy and certain sectors and not so much for the middle class and everyone else.

This is part of the reason why Obama's approval rating on the economy has long been and continues to be underwater -- despite years of positive job growth and the things he mentioned Tuesday.

And indeed, on the local level, things don't seem to be going that great, according to a new study. A full 93 percent of U.S. counties have not fully recovered from the recession that hit most of America six years ago, according to the nonpartisan National Association of Counties.


Economic recovery by county. The darker the blue, the better a county's economic recovery. (Courtesy of National Association of Counties)

The association released its third annual report Tuesday on the health of county economies and found that things are getting better for some counties -- specifically in the very middle of the country -- but that the vast majority of counties have yet to get their economic health on-par with where things were before the recession.

The report analyzed federal government and Moody's Analytics data on four key economic indicators -- jobs, unemployment, gross domestic product and home prices. It found that while there are some bright spots at the local level, like rising home prices and dipping unemployment rates, the majority of counties struggled in 2015 to create jobs and produce goods and services. Nearly half of all counties (47.4 percent) haven't recovered to pre-recession levels on even two of the four measures -- including 16 percent who have not recovered on any of them.

"When it comes to economic output and jobs, the recovery almost stalled in 2015," said one of the study's authors, Emilia Istrate.

What's more, Istrate said she found that, broadly speaking, from 2009 to 2014, wages haven't kept up with productivity gains. In other words, Americans are working harder but not getting paid commensurately.


Real wages vs. productivity growth, 2009 to 2014. (Courtesy of National Association of Counties)

So Obama is stressing that the United States is doing much better since he took office. And according to the indicators he cited on Tuesday, rightfully so.

But as this report shows, how that recovery has played on the local level isn't quite so uniformly positive. And that will continue to blunt whatever credit Obama is able to claim for a true economic recovery on his watch.