Washington, Jan 18 (Agencies): US President Barack Obama has matched his highest job approval rating in more than a year after his response to Tucson shooting and a hint of economic recovery.

Fifty four per cent of Americans now approve of Obama's job performance, up 5 points from last month and 8 points above his career low in September, the latest ABC News/ Washington Post poll says.

It is a remarkable turnaround for a president so recently hammered in the 2010 midterm elections, the ABC said on its website on the outcome of the poll.

And given overwhelming approval of his response to the Tucson attack, Americans by an 18-point margin, 58-40 per cent, say Obama "understands the problems of people like you."

That is up from a mere 2-point split, 50-48 per cent, in September.

In an emotional speech at a memorial meeting in Tuscon, Arizona, Obama delivered a eulogy urging Americans to talk with each other "in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds."

Accompanied by the First Lady Michelle, the President said he joins Tucson in its grief after a gunman shot dead six people and seriously injured Gabrielle Giffords, a Congresswoman from Arizona.

In another critical shift, 35 per cent of Americans say Obama's economic programme is making the economy better, while 24 per cent say he is making it worse -- the positive result up by 5 points since September, the negative down by 9 points.

Strikingly, the view that Obama made the economy worse has eased most broadly in an unexpected quarter: down by 17 points among Republicans.

Overall, just 13 per cent describe America's economy positively; while still miserably low, that is up 4 points from October and the most since February 2008. More significantly, the number describing the nation's economy as "poor" is down by 8 points since October, to 41 per cent in this new survey.

Seventy two per cent say the economy should be a highest priority issue for Obama and the Congress, far surpassing all others. While 38 per cent say America is heading in the right
direction, up 7 points since last month and the most since March, that nonetheless leaves 60 per cent who continue to say the country is headed seriously off on the wrong track.

Some of Obama's ratings on handling individual issues, while still tepid, are up from their lows. He has 46 per cent approval on handling the economy compares with a low of 41 per
cent in September.