Thursday, March 10, 2011

Despite 'Super Awesome' Stock Market, Plurality of Americans Say Worse Off than 2 Years Ago

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Some interesting poll results via Bloomberg, showing despite the recession 'ending' 1.75 years ago, and a near doubling in the stock market, many Americans continue to simply not feel it.   Strange considering Main Street = Wall Street. ;)

No surprise here, based on a litany of reasons we've outlined the past 3-4 years, as the changing face of the American economy is creating a slice of outsized winners (who now drive most of the consumption) and an increasing host of losers.   We've outlined in the past why the stock market gains benefit a relatively small amount of Americans [Nov 10, 2010: Who Will Any Form of Intermediate Term Wealth Effect Really Help? Not the Masses] whereas the loss of good paying jobs, the ability for many to create a middle class lifestyle, drop in housing values (affecting many more Americans than the stock market), inflation in things we need, et al are causing havoc and consternation for many.  If not for unprecedented federal government support in social services, much of the rot under the surface would be seen more clearly.   That said, corporate profits are boffo, so as speculators "everything is good".  

But let's take a look at Main Street today.... keep in mind this data includes the fact every working American got a 2% pay increase Jan 1, 2011 due to the payroll tax holiday.

  • Only 1 American in 7 has faith a lasting economic recovery has taken hold and a plurality say they are personally worse off than they were two years ago.  Almost half of the respondents in a Bloomberg National Poll conducted March 4-7 believe the U.S. is in a “fragile” rebound and could fall back into recession. More than a third of the country believes the U.S. never emerged from recession.
  • Sixty-three percent of Americans say the nation is on the wrong track, (that is actually astounding - roughly 2/3rds of the country!) compared with 66 percent who said so in December, which was the lowest in the national mood in the one and a half years the Bloomberg poll has been conducted.
  • The gloomy outlook contradicts economic data showing an economy on the mend, including six quarters of economic growth, a 95 percent rise in the S&P 500 index over the past two years and job growth last month of 192,000. The National Bureau of Economic Research officially dated the end of the recession to June 2009.
  • Almost half of poll respondents say they are personally worse off than they were two years ago, when the country was losing 796,000 jobs a month and the economy was shrinking at a 4.9 percent annual rate. The stock market hit its post-financial crisis low two years ago yesterday.
  • Only 1.3 million U.S. jobs have been regained of the more than 8.7 million lost since January 2008.  “I don’t think it’s going to get much better,” says poll respondent Robert Lockhart, an 85-year-old retiree in Luray, Virginia. “Most of our jobs are overseas. They send the parts back here to put together. But your refrigerators, your TVs are produced overseas.”   
  • Concern over unemployment receded to 43 percent from 50 percent in December, though it remains the public’s top priority, ahead of the federal deficit. 
  • Assessments of the housing market are mixed, with 4 out of 10 Americans believing home values in their neighborhood are declining while about the same number believe prices have stabilized. Another 17 percent believe home prices are rising.
  • Antipathy toward Wall Street hasn’t changed since the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis. Only 30 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of Wall Street, compared with 31 percent who said so in September 2009. 
  • The poll of 1,001 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.


Somewhat related jobs data I've read over the past 2 days - if the labor force participation rate had held steady between February 2010 and February 2011, the unemployment rate would be 11% rather than 8.9%.  It continues to be a mystery where a few million American workers have disappeared to. 

Second, while 23% of the jobs lost during the great recession were of the lowest paying variety ($9-$13/hr), 49% of the new jobs created in this 'recovery' have been on this variety.  Meanwhile the higher paying level ($19-$31/hr) accounted for 40% of the jobs lost, but only 14% of new jobs during the recovery.  Hence we have a focus on quantity of jobs on Wall Street (which has been poor in and of itself) but the lost message is the quality of jobs created is flailing.

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