WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Local workers are trying to figure out where the economy is headed and President Obama is forced into an about-face while trying to answer to the same question.
Republicans are jumping all over the president's remarks Friday, calling him 'out of touch' with the nation's economic realities.
The debate has many locals wondering about the pace of progress.
Derek Mack was filling up his gas tank to get to his next gig.
"It's like a rollercoaster ride," he said. This West Palm Beach musician says he is still struggling to find consistent work. "The economy these days is pretty bad," he said. "I mean, it's getting better." Better, but not good enough, he says. Mack is not alone. "If the small businessman can survive, the economy will bounce back," he said.
The debate surrounding economic progress is heating up locally and in Washington, D.C. In a White House press conference on Friday, one sentence had the president's GOP counterparts in an uproar.
"The private sector is doing fine," said Mr. Obama, speaking about the comparison to a struggling public sector.
That comment did not sit well with Republicans. "Are you kidding?" asked Rep. Eric Cantor, (R) Virginia. "Did he see the job numbers that came out last week? The private sector is not doing fine," he said.
Hours later, the president attempted to clarify his words on the private sector economy. "Its absolutely clear, the economy is not doing fine," he said during another appearance before reporters in the Oval Office.
Too little, too late say some political observers.
"Republicans just jumped on that comment," said Chuck Todd, NBC News Political Director and Chief White House Correspondent. "It just shows you everything right now is being looked at through the prism of the presidential campaign," said Todd.
In South Florida there are mixed signals and mixed feelings about an economy said to be on the mend. After a year an a half of being unemployed, Joseph Ferro finally found a job renovating hotels.
"My father, my grandfather could never picture it and there we were sometime, almost bankrupt," said Ferro.
There are some encouraging local trends. In Palm Beach County, for example, Workforce Alliance officials say there have been nine straight months of dropping unemployment. Small decreases, that they say, are adding up over time.