Americans weigh in on job market and economy

February 27, 2013

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How do you feel about the job market and the economy these days? Positive, negative, mixed?

According to a Harris Poll conducted in February, Americans have mixed feelings about the job market and economy, and the majority of us are concerned about covering our expenses this year—all understandable. Perhaps the most surprising finding is that 48 percent of Americans believe we still are in a recession.

On the subject of the economy, 32 percent expect it to be better in the coming year, 40 percent expect it to stay the same, and 28 percent expect it get worse. These numbers reportedly are similar to a year ago, when the percentages were 36, 40, and 24 respectively; however, it’s worth noting that the number who thought it would improve declined and the number who thought it would get worse grew. Not an encouraging trend.

While Congress is busy trying to right the nation’s financial ship, American households are trying to steer their own. Survey findings show that 50 percent believe their financial conditions will remain the same over the next six months (survey doesn’t address whether those conditions are good or bad), while 23 percent believe it will be better, and 27 percent believe it will get worse. Echo Boomers (those 18-36) are more likely than Matures (those 67 and older) to believe things will be better—30 percent versus 14 percent.

On the job market: “While there is still a concern about unemployment, more Americans say the job market in their region of the country is good (21 percent) than have said so since July of 2008, when 30 percent called the job market good. Although the numbers are improving, almost half of U.S. adults say that the job market in their region is bad (48 percent), while 31 percent say it is neither good nor bad.

“The improvements in the job market are encouraging, but expectations for the future are mixed. Currently, 28 percent of Americans believe the job market in their region is going to be better over the next six months, while half (52 percent) say it will remain the same. One in five (19 percent) think it will be worse. Looking back almost a year to last March, one-third of U.S. adults (33 percent) thought the job market would be getting better, half (50 percent) thought it would remain the same and 17 percent believed it would be getting worse over the next six months.”

Once again, there is a drop in the number who believe it will be better. Not an encouraging trend.

About covering those household expenses: “… expenses, such as gas, are taking a growing toll on paychecks that haven't increased very much in the past few years. A majority of Americans (57 percent) are concerned that their family's income will not be enough to cover all of their costs and expenses this year, while 43 percent are not concerned. One positive note is that this is down from the 63 percent who stated they were concerned last year.

" Not surprisingly, the higher a person's household income, the less likely they are to be concerned about covering their costs and expenses. However, it is somewhat alarming that large numbers of people even in the highest income brackets—47 percent of those who earn $75,000 to $99,999 and 37 percent of those who earn $100,000 or more—say they are concerned about meeting their costs and expenses.”

Somewhat alarming and not exactly encouraging.

Will the current discussions in Washington do anything to alter these attitudes? The Harris Poll says, “With all eyes on Washington this week for the sequester and in March as the current continuing resolution for keeping the government funded runs out, President Obama heads into these talks with Congress with mixed news. First, over one-third of Americans (36 percent) give him positive ratings on his handling of the economy which is the highest he has been since May, 2010. But almost two-thirds (64 percent) give the president negative ratings on how he is handling the economy.

"When it comes to confidence in the White House and Administration producing policies to help fix the
economic crisis, over one-third of U.S. adults (37 percent) are confident they will be able to do so, but 63 percent are not confident.”

Not encouraging.

In summation, the Harris Poll said, “… almost half (48 percent) believe the U.S. is still in a recession, and only one-quarter (24 percent) believe the U.S. has come out of a recession and the economy is growing. Until consumers feel more confident that there are policies are in place to help and that they have enough money to pay their monthly bills, they will likely hold off on spending. This will not help the economy bounce back in a steady manner.”

No kidding.

Here’s hoping subsequent surveys have more encouraging results. The economic malaise is getting old.

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