President Barack Obama has gained voters' approval by a slight margin for the first time this year, said a poll released Wednesday that also showed Americans still wary of his handling of the economy.

By a 48-43 percent split voters gave a thumbs up to the job Obama is doing, in the first positive approval rating he has received since December, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.

Voters remain pessimistic, however, on the president's efforts to bring around the US economy from one of the worst downturns in generations.

By 74 to 21 percent, voters maintain the recession that began in December 2007 was still in effect, and by a 50-44 margin disapprove of the way Obama is handling the economy.

The figure is a slight improvement from the 55-40 percent disapproval he received to the same question in April.

Obama's ratings "have been in the no man's land of just below parity for some time and now the question is whether this is the beginning of an upward trend or just a blip," said Quinnipiac's Peter Brown, assistant director of the poll.

The 50 percent job approval barrier is traditionally seen as a crucial one for presidents, affecting their political standing and ability to attract support for their policies in Congress.

"The fact that three out of four American voters still see the nation in recession, despite the claims from the so-called experts, highlights the disconnect between Wall Street, Washington DC's K St. and Main Street," said Brown.

For Obama to push his job approval back over 50 percent, Brown said the White House needed to convince regular Americans across the country that his programs are helping.

For the study, Quinnipiac surveyed 1,914 registered voters nationwide from May 19-24, and the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.