NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Americans Pessimistic about U.S. Economy

August 29, 2014

Americans are not optimistic about economic recovery in the United States. The recession officially ended in June 2009, yet the majority of Americans do not see the economy as having improved.

A study from researchers at Rutgers University chronicles the nation's attitude towards the labor market. Ten million private-sector jobs have been added to the U.S. economy during the last four years, and the official unemployment rate has reached 80 percent of pre-recession levels. Yet, the researchers note that the job growth the United States has not created enough full-time jobs, and a deeper look at the economy reveals some not-so-positive statistics:

  • 9.7 million Americans were unemployed in July 2014.
  • Job growth in this recovery has largely been in low-wage occupations (something that NCPA Senior Fellow Pam Villareal recently pointed out in an interview with Fox News), while many of the jobs that were lost during the recession were high- and middle-wage jobs.
  • Wage increases have not kept up with inflation.
  • The labor force participation rate is at its lowest level in 30 years, and long-term unemployment is above pre-recession levels in at least 40 states.
  • More than one in six men of prime working age are unemployed or have given up on finding work.
  • The economy needs an additional 7 million new jobs, at minimum, to reach full employment. According to the Brookings Institution, if the economy continues to grow at its current rate, it will not be until 2019 that it will be able to accommodate new workers and be in the position that it was in prior to the recession.

As a result, 71 percent of Americans believe that the recession has brought permanent, lasting changes to the American economy (up from just 49 percent who believed this was the case in November 2009 and 60 percent who believed this in January 2013). Moreover:

  • Just 16 percent of the public believe that job and employment opportunities will be better for the next generation -- down from 56 percent in July 1999.
  • When asked how long it will take the economy to recover from the recession, 36 percent report believing that the economy will never fully recover. Another 24 percent expect recovery to take an additional six to 10 years, while 30 percent expect to see recovery in three to five years.

According to the report, 42 percent of Americans believed that government could help to deal with the United States' economic situation in January 2013, while 59 percent believed that the government could do little to help. But as of August 2014, just 22 percent of respondents expressed optimism that the government could help to fix the economy, while 78 percent believed that the government could do little, if anything.

Source: Cliff Zukin, Carl Van Horn and Allison Kopicki, "Unhappy, Worried, and Pessimistic: Americans in the Aftermath of the Great Recession," John J. Hendrich Center for Workforce Development, August 2014.


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