Investing

Eighty Percent of Americans Say U.S. Is Still in Recession

If pessimism is a marker for the ability, or lack thereof, to turn the economy around, there is little reason to be optimistic that things will get any better soon.

According to a new Gallup poll, “Although the last U.S. recession officially ended in 2009, the poll finds 80% of Americans believing the economy is currently in a recession, similar to what Gallup measured in each of the previous three years.”

The results are another example of the often measured divide between Wall St. and Main Street, although the gyrations of the markets show that divide may have begun to end. Investors have begun to show fear that earnings will not be good and that trouble in Europe could wreck the global economy

The Gallup numbers are the sign of  a widening concern that the years ahead will be awful, economically.

“Three in four Americans assess the U.S. economy as no better than a year ago, with 35% saying it is about the same and 42% saying it is worse. Looking ahead to a year from now, Americans remain largely pessimistic, with 61% expecting economic conditions to be similar to now, or worse.”

These figures come from employment worries and a persistent depression in the housing market. More and more experts say that home prices may not recover for years. Even the Administration and the Federal Reserve do not expect unemployment to fall below 8% before 2013. All of those forecasts are enough to scare most Americans, if their current circumstances have not done so already.

The economy now has become based to a large extent on a cycle that moves from low consumer confidence to fear among businesses that their prospects will not get better soon. That in turn often means lay-offs. Lay-offs make a recovery in joblessness and home prices unlikely.

Worry is so deeply seeded now that the Administration’s jobs bill has not changed the opinions of many business owners. Tax credits of $4,000 to hire long-unemployed workers have left no good impression. A worker who comes with a tax credit is nearly useless if that worker is not needed at all.

Pessimism about the economy is now so deeply rooted that it is hard to say what will dig those roots out.

Methodology: Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 15-18, 2011, with a random sample of 1,004 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Douglas A. McIntyre

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