“Unhappy, Worried, Pessimistic”

“The public has become convinced that they are at a new normal of a lower, poorer quality of life. The human cost is truly staggering.”

That’s the finding of a national study by Rutger’s John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. Five years into the “recovery,” seventy-percent of Americans believe the impact of the Great Recession is “permanent.” What makes this pessimistic view especially dramatic is that in 2009, when the recession was officially ending, only 50 percent of Americans shared this sense of gloom.

Even though the charts and government handouts show sustained job growth and lower levels of unemployment, the study says most Americans just don’t believe the economy has improved yet, and don’t think it will get a rise next year. In fact, only 17 percent think job opportunities will be better for the next generation, fewer than half of those who shared that sentiment in 2009.

The authors of the study believe that the pessimism expressed is based on the personal experience of respondents, rather than theory or media manipulation. The majority of the public doesn’t buy into the idea that the economy is better because they still remain under tremendous financial stress.

“Fully one-quarter of the public says there has been a major decline in their quality of life owing to the recession, and 42 percent say they have less in salary and savings than when the recession began,” says professor Carl Van Horn, co-author of the report. For 53 percent of the working public, job security has become a myth; for 44 percent, the possibility of having to take a job below their skill level has become a reality.

One unifying idea expressed in the study is that Washington policy makers are not competent to manage the economy. How about if Republicans win control of Congress in November? Only 26 percent think this would help lower the unemployment rate, while 30 percent say it would make unemployment worse. Our vote goes with the 44 percent who say it won’t make any difference at all.

As the Trends Research Institute looks deeper into this critical mood-of-the-populous trend line, we say bring on the cheer – in products, services, entertainment, art and culture. As our analysts prepare the institute’s Top Trends for 2015, opportunities arising from this negative trend will be examined.

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