Americans are becoming more pessimistic about the economy, more worried about inflation — and now, more anxious about the job market, as well.
Fifty-two percent of American adults say they are worse off financially than they were a year ago, according to a survey conducted for The New York Times this month by the online research platform Momentive. That was up from 41 percent in April, and was by far the highest share in the survey’s five years. Only 14 percent of Americans said they were better off than a year ago, the worst in the survey’s history.
The dour mood is also reflected in other surveys. The University of Michigan’s index of consumer sentiment this month hit its lowest level in its 70-year history. Another measure of consumer confidence, from the Conference Board, has also fallen, though less drastically.
There is no mystery as to what is causing consumers’ bleak outlook: prices that are rising at the fastest rate in a generation. More than nine in 10 Americans say they are concerned about inflation, according to the Momentive poll, including 70 percent who say they are “very concerned,” up from 63 percent in April.
Inflation has emerged as a major political challenge for President Biden and congressional Democrats. Only 31 percent of Americans said they approved of Mr. Biden’s approach to inflation; support was muted even among Democrats, only 58 percent of whom said they approved of Mr. Biden’s approach, and only 15 percent of them “strongly.”
Survey respondents were equally critical of the approach taken by the Federal Reserve, which has begun aggressively raising interest rates in an effort to bring down inflation. Only 30 percent of Americans said they approved of the Fed’s handling of the issue.
Until recently, worries about inflation have been offset, at least to some degree, by the strong job market, which has enabled workers to push for higher pay and better benefits. But there are hints that could be changing. Forty-seven percent of adults in June said they thought it was a good time to look for a job, down from 60 percent in April. And nearly half of respondents said they thought the U.S. economy had entered a recession.
About the Survey: The data in this article came from an online survey of 5,342 adults conducted by the polling firm Momentive from June 13 to June 19. The company selected respondents at random from the more than two million people who take surveys on its platform each day. Responses were weighted to match the demographic profile of the population of the United States. The survey has a modeled error estimate (similar to a margin of error in a standard telephone poll) of plus or minus 2 percentage points, so differences of less than that amount are statistically insignificant.