Are We Still In A Funk?

funkThere is a wealth of economic data that shows we have backed away from the edge of the fiscal cliff of 2008/2009. More than five years later, there is now economic light at the end of the tunnel. Unemployment is way down–from 10% to less than 6%. For those who stuck it out, the stock market has rebounded to more than double its early 2009 low. And despite the henny pennies that cried that the Affordable Care Act was the end of society as we know it, despite its flaws, it is actually helping insure those who had no coverage, and it is helping keep health care costs down.

So if generally good stuff is happening, why are don’t we feel better about our nation, its direction and the future?

My alma mater, Rutgers, recently conducted a national study, The Work Trends report from the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. The survey of 1,153 Americans was conducted between July 24 and August 3, 2014, so its findings are current.

Macrotrends.org_Unemployment_Rate_Last_Ten_YearsThe findings are that as a nation, that roughly 7 in 10 fear the impact of the Great Recession is a permanent one. Their feelings are not without merit. While unemployment is down signifcantly as shown, many have shifted to lesser paying jobs and are underemployed, while others dropped out of the job market altogether.

Despite our economic progress, the impact of the Great Recession clearly lingers. The majority of Americans were effected, many monetarily or minimally psychologically. The study grouped Americans into one of five categories, based on the impact the recession had on their lives:

• 16 percent were “devastated”
• 19 percent were “downsized”
• 10 percent were “set back”
• 22 percent were “troubled”
• 33 percent were “unscathed”

So in round numbers 2/3 of us were impacted–45% suffered a direct hit, another 22% took a psychological blow. Only 1/3 of Americans were unscathed, either because their wealth far exceed their needs, or perhaps because they were clueless and didn’t fully realize the depth of the doo-doo we were in.

Some of the key findings of the study were:

–Despite sustained job growth and lower levels of employment, most Americans do not think the economy has improved in the last year or that it will in the next.

–Just one in six Americans believe that job opportunities for the next generation will be better than for theirs; five years ago, four in 10 held that view.

–Roughly four in five Americans have little or no confidence that the federal government will make progress on the nation’s most important problems over the next year

Many American have made lifestyle changes and/or career changes (e.g. lesser paying jobs) coming out of the Great Recession. Hence the feeling of many is that the Recession is not over. And for everyone it’s legitimate to worry about whether the future for generations to come will be rosier than the past.

The direct impact of the Great Recession may be abating but the psychological impact lingers and may never recede. Yes, we are still in a funk. For many it remains a Grand Funk.

How do you feel?

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