If the US economy statistics are good, why do Americans feel so bad?

Economists see a “soft landing” and strong jobs market, but Americans use words like “dismal” and “disastrous” to describe their own lives – Exclusive poll


Ask Americans for a word that describes the state of the economy in their lives, and you’ll hear a catalog of woe.

“Horrible.” “Chaotic.” “Sad.” “Struggling.” “Scary.”

In our new Suffolk University Sawyer Business School/USA TODAY Poll, 3 in 4 people volunteered words that reflected worry and worse – overwhelming the 1 in 5 who said things were good or improving or at least fair. Economists have been admiring the strong job market and the “soft landing” that has eased inflation without tipping into a recession, at least so far, but the view from the kitchen table is considerably less rosy.

“My read of this data: There’s no soft landing,” said David Paleologos, director of Suffolk’s Political Research Center.

By more than 3-1, 70%-22%, those surveyed said the economy was getting worse, not improving.

If the economic statistics are good, why do Americans feel so bad?

Here are six findings from the survey that help explain that disconnect. The poll of 1,000 people, taken by landline and cellphone Sept. 6-11, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Grocery costs are still biting

Is inflation getting better? Americans don’t see it.

There’s a national consensus that the cost of living is still rising: 84% said so. Just 4% said prices were easing, barely above the poll’s margin of error. Half of those who see inflation continuing, 49%, cite the cost of food as the biggest culprit.

Sixteen percent named housing costs, and 11% pointed each to utility bills and the price of gas and other transportation costs.

Household debt is up, savings are down

As Congress debates how to address rising red ink in the federal budget, many families find themselves doing the same.

Four in 10, 39%, said their household debt has increased over the past year, double the 18% who said it has decreased. Nearly 9 of 10 said they don’t plan to buy or sell a home in the next 12 months, and the reason, given by more than a third of them was that they simply can’t afford to do it now.

Thirty percent say they’ve had to cut into their savings to pay their bills, and nearly as many say they’ve saved less money than usual over the past year. That’s a recipe for trouble down the road.

Pandemic aid has run out

A 55% majority of Americans say they received some federal stimulus money or other federal aid during the pandemic, and it mattered to many of them. More than a third of the recipients called it “very important” to get through the worst time of the pandemic; another 1 in 4 called it “somewhat important.”

But three rounds of stimulus funding are over, and Congress rejected proposals to renew expanded help to pay for child care. That’s one reason that Census Bureau data released Tuesday showed child poverty more than doubled last year, to 12.4% in 2022 from 5.2% in 2021.

New clothes? An evening out? Forget about it.

Most Americans have cut back on some of life’s pleasures because of concerns about the…

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