Most Americans impacted by the ‘Great Recession’

Most Americans have been touched by the recession. Even those who did not lose their jobs were affected by the recession that began 30 months ago, according to a report released today by the Pew Research Center.

More than half — 55 percent — of all adults in the labor force have suffered a period of unemployment, taken a pay cut, experienced a reduction in hours or have become involuntarily part-time workers. Most have concerns that it will take at least three years, at a minimum, for their family finances and house values to recover.

Other finding from the research:

  • The Recession at Work: The work-related impact of this recession extends far beyond the 9.7% who are unemployed or the 16.6% who (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) are either out of work or underemployed. The Pew Research survey finds that about a third (32%) of adults in the labor force have been unemployed for a period of time during the recession. And when asked about a broader range of work-related impacts, 55% of adults in the labor force say that during the recession they have suffered a spell of unemployment, a cut in pay, a reduction in hours or an involuntary spell in a part-time job.
  • Is It Over Yet? Most Americans (54%) say the U.S. economy is still in a recession; 41% say it is beginning to come out of the recession; and just 3% say the recession is over. Whites (57%) are more inclined than blacks (45%) or Hispanics (43%) to say the recession is ongoing. Republicans (63%) are more inclined than Democrats (43%) to say the same.
  • The New Frugality: More than six-in-ten Americans (62%) say they have cut back on their spending since the recession began in December 2007; just 6% say they have increased their spending. Asked to predict their spending patterns once the economy improves, nearly one-in-three (31%) say they plan to spend less than they did before the recession began, while just 12% say they plan to spend more. A majority say they expect to spend about what they did before the recession.
  • Family Finances: About half the public (48%) say they are in worse financial shape now than before the recession began; one-in-five (21%) say they are in better shape. Grouped by income, those with annual household incomes below $50,000 are the most likely to say they are in worse shape. Grouped by age, those in late middle age (50 to 64) are most likely to say this. Also, government data show that average household wealth fell by about 20% from 2007 to 2009, principally because of declining house values and retirement accounts. This is the biggest meltdown in U.S. household wealth in the post-World War II era.
  • A Slow Road to Recovery: Of those who say their family finances have lost ground during the recession, 63% say it will take at least three years to recover. Blacks who have lost ground believe that their recovery time will be shorter than do whites who have lost ground.
  • Retirement Worries: A third (32%) of adults now say they are not confident that they will have enough income and assets to finance their retirement, up from 25% who said that in February 2009. Among adults ages 62 and older who are still working, a third say they have already delayed retirement because of the recession. And among workers in their 50s, about six-in-ten say they may have to do the same.
  • The Recession Hits Home: About half of all homeowners (48%) say the value of their home has declined during the recession. Of those who say this, nearly half (47%) believe it will take three to five years for the value to return to pre-recession levels, and nearly four-in-ten (39%) expect it will take six years or longer. Yet the vast majority (80%) of Americans say that owning a house is the best long-term investment a person can make.
  • Lower Expectations for Children’s Future: More than a quarter (26%) of Americans say that when their children become the age they are now, their children will have a worse standard of living than they now have. A decade ago, just 10% of Americans had this concern. Blacks, Hispanics and young adults are more upbeat about the idea of intra-family intergenerational progress than are whites and older adults.
  • A Partisan Switch: Throughout most of the decade of the 2000s, Republicans were significantly more upbeat than Democrats about the state of the economy. That pattern is now reversed. Across six different measures of confidence in both personal finances and the national economy, Democrats are now much more upbeat than Republicans, even though they have lower incomes and less wealth and have suffered more job losses during the recession. To be sure, Republicans have had to endure their own distinctive mix of recession-related hardships. They are more likely than Democrats to say their house has lost value, and because they are more likely than Democrats to have investments in the stock market, they’ve been more exposed to its volatile swings up and down.

How have you been most impacted by the recession? Unemployment? Underemployment?

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5 comments Add your comment


July 1st, 2010
4:16 pm

My husband did not receive a pay raise last year. This year his “bonus”, which is part of the way that all employees at his company are compensated, has been slashed drastically. We used the “bonus” for living expenses as well as to pay for our vacations and major repairs and maintenance on our house as well as paying the tuition for our youngest child’s school.

I do not believe the recession is “over” yet. Things have picked up a little bit but not much.

We are spending quite a bit less than we did in December of 2007 mainly because our income is lower. We do not plan to go back to old spending habits if my husband’s income increases.

Our house has decreased in value by 20-30%. My husband’s 401K has been hit but he has continued his contributions of 12% of his income. We have reallocated what funds his contributions go to and we may do so again.

I believe that at least 2 of my 3 children will have lower standards of living than we do when they are our age. I say this because of their personalities, their choices of career paths, and the outlook for the economy in the next 10+ years.

My 24 year old daughter has been unable to find a part-time job since returning from an 8 month mission trip in April 2009. She is in school full time but has only been able to find occasional baby-sitting jobs to make money.

[...] current economic crisis may be a result of conservative failure, with catastrophic results that have impacted most Americans in one way or another. But I think there’s a better way to describe it, by borrowing phrases [...]

David S

July 3rd, 2010
9:47 pm

This is a Depression, and will be known as the Greatest Depression once the real insanity finally gets here. Stop shilling for the government and using their “kinder” terminology. Just like the inflation statistics and the unemployment statistics, this economic collapse is being hidden from the public out of fear and because the government knows they are to blame.

David S

July 3rd, 2010
9:49 pm

And by government, I do not mean to single out Obama, although his policies, just like those of Hoover and Roosevelt, are making this much worse and will worsen and prolong the crisis. This problem has ultimately been building since the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913, the siezure of american’s gold in 1934, and the abandonment of the gold standard in 1971. Plenty of government and banking blame to go around.

Get ready folks, its going to be a bumpy ride.

[...] on your point of view. The current economic crisis may be a result of conservative failure, with catastrophic results that have impacted most Americans in one way or another. But I think there’s a better way to describe it, by borrowing phrases [...]