Problem: Most Americans don't believe the unemployment rate is 5%

What is the 'real' unemployment rate?
What is the 'real' unemployment rate?

Americans think the economy is in far worse shape than it is.

The U.S. unemployment rate is only 4.9%, but 57% of Americans believe it's a lot higher than that, according to a new survey by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

The general public has "extremely little factual knowledge" about the job market and labor force, Rutgers found.

It's another example of how experts on Wall Street and in Washington see the economy differently than the regular Joe. Many of the nation's top economic experts say that America is "near full employment." The unemployment rate has actually been at or below 5% for almost a year -- millions of people have found jobs in what is the best period of hiring since the late 1990s.

But regular people appear to have their doubts about how healthy America's employment picture is. Nearly a third of those survey by Rutgers believe unemployment is actually at 9%, or higher.

Republican candidate Donald Trump has tapped into this confusion. He has repeatedly called the official unemployment rate a "joke" and a even "hoax."

Related: Sorry Trump, 5% unemployment is not a 'hoax'

It's not just the unemployment rate that people get wrong. Americans also greatly overestimate the number of workers who are represented by unions and how many workers are foreign born.

Only 11% of U.S. workers are part of unions, according to the Labor Department, yet Rutgers found that 76% of those surveyed believe it is a much higher percentage than that. In fact, 40% of Americans think union members make up 30% of the workforce.

Similarly, the percentage of the U.S. population that is foreign born is about 13%, according to the Census, yet over half of those polled thought it was higher.

Hillary Clinton's chances to win in November hinge on whether voters believe the Obama economy is headed in the right direction.

Related: Trump's new problem: His lead on economic issues is gone

In a positive sign for Clinton, the Rutgers poll found that Americans have far rosier views of the economy in this latest August poll than they did in 2009 -- or even 2014.

But there is still a lot of worry, especially about the future. Only 23% believe job opportunities will be better for the next generation.

Trump campaign slogan to "Make American Great Again" hits directly at those concerns about what will happen to people's kids and grandkids. Trump used to have a commanding lead when voters were asked which candidate would be better to "handle the economy." But that lead has evaporated.

The Rutgers poll found that 41% picked Clinton as the best candidate for the economy, while only 33% selected Trump.

In the latest CNN/ORC poll, Trump now has a slight lead over Clinton overall with nine weeks to go in the race.

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