Americans Fret Over Job Crisis

Americans Fret Over Job Crisis

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As Congress quarrels over the Bush-era tax cuts and the extension of unemployment benefits, Americans worry most about finding, and holding onto, their jobs, according to a new poll.

The latest national poll released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center for the People & Press found that nearly half of the survey’s 1,500 respondents cited the “job situation” as their primary economic concern. The report is titled “Little Progress Seen on Major Domestic Issues – For Public, Tough Year Ends on a Down Note.”

“This is not a question about long term issues, this is about what worries you most,” said Carroll Doherty, associate director of the Pew Research Center. “We’ve seen consistently jobs are the top concern.”

The job crisis far outweighed respondents concerns over the budget deficit, rising prices, financial markets and the housing market. The data was collected over a five-day span beginning on December 5th. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its November unemployment rate also early this month, which rose to 9.8 percent after hovering at 9.6 percent for the last three months.  

Almost half of Americans say that someone in their household has been without a job and looking for work over the last year. “This number has fluctuated in recent months, but is up from just 28 percent in February of 2008, when the national unemployment rate was closer to 5 percent.”

The survey also found that nearly eight-in-ten (79 percent) say job opportunities in their area are difficult to find compared with just 14 percent who say there are plenty of jobs available.  First posed in 2001, this question recorded the highest ever percentage of people reporting that jobs are difficult to find. 

Even among the currently employed, the report says almost 65 percent of respondents say jobs in their line of work are difficult to find in their community, while 30 percent say there are plenty of jobs available.

Interestingly, the data, intrinsically linked to the unemployment rate, might not improve even if unemployment begins to creep down. Doherty recalls a lag between the economic recovery of the mid 1990s to when the public’s attitudes began to shift on jobs and the economy.  A 1994 report from Pew titled “Economic Recovery has Little Impact on American Mood” found that despite signs of an economic turnaround, “Americans remain highly dissatisfied with the state of the nation, financially burdened and fearful about their futures.” 

“Views of the job situation have a big effect on peoples view s of the overall economy,” added Doherty. “There is a connection there.”

The survey also found that for many Americans affording basic necessities is a struggle – “51 percent say it is difficult to afford health care, 48 percent say the same about their home heating and electric bills, and 29 percent say it is difficult to afford food,”  the Pew reports. 

So as tax cuts, government treasury bonds, and political gridlock complicate a fragile economy, resolution to these complicated issues won’t mean much to Americans until it starts resulting in more job creation. When it finally does, Americans may still yet be cautious of the economy.

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