Survey: Great Recession Leaves Workers ‘Unhappy, Worried and Pessimistic’

NEWARK, N.J. –The Great Recession was so bad for workers that it has apparently left them “unhappy, worried and pessimistic” about the present state of the economy, their own jobs and prospects, and the future, a new survey says.

The survey, of 1,013 adults this summer by the Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J., paints a dismal picture of workers’ views, years after the statistical end of the crash.  In short, the Rutgers researchers found, the numbers may say the crash is over, but real people don’t.

“The general feeling that the Great Recession has fundamentally changed American life for the worse is not a media-based or externally based perception of reality; rather, it is firmly anchored in personal experience. Two-thirds of all adults say the recession had an impact on their own standard of living, a staggering num­ber in American society,” the Rutgers researchers reported (their emphasis).

“Fully one-quarter (26 percent) describe it as a ‘major’ change, with another 41 percent saying it caused a ‘minor’ change.  This change may be a piece of good news as perhaps the reality of what happened was not as bad as the perception of what the near future would bring.  Among the two-thirds who experienced a lifestyle change, just over half believe those changes will be permanent and just under half believe it will be temporary.”

The workers’ views of the U.S. economy are, if anything, even more negative: 71 percent say the economy has changed permanently and for the worse, due to the crash, the survey reveals.  One big reason, the survey says, is that the impact of unemployment, which reached 10 percent at the height of the recession, is more widespread and personal.

Eleven percent of survey respondents said an immediate family member was laid off during the crash, while another quarter reported an extended family member lost a job and almost 20 percent more said close friends were jobless.  When asked if they knew anyone who lost a job – co-workers, family, friends, acquaintances – 80 percent of respondents said yes.

Another is that huge majorities of workers view the bad changes in the economy as either long-term or permanent.  Those bad changes include declines in college affordability, inability to afford to retire, lack of job security and retirees having to work part-time.  In each of those four categories, a majority thinks prospects will never revert to pre-crash conditions and another third think it’ll take six to 10 years for pre-crash conditions to return.

The Rutgers researchers, citing other opinion polls, say most Americans – not just workers – trust neither Democratic President Barack Obama nor Congress to fix the mess.  Just 22 percent have either a lot of confidence or some confidence government can “make progress” on fixing U.S. problems during the next year.  The other 78 percent have little or no confidence.  That’s down from 42 percent with a lot or some confidence, just after Obama’s re-election.   Obama himself gets a 46 percent job approval rating, while 54 percent disapprove.  Congress’ job approval rating is 14 percent.

-PAI