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There was talk aplenty about a so-called “V-shaped” recovery back in the summer when economic data was skyrocketing off of the lows earlier this year. Now, as the U.S. heads into a winter with a new but not yet widely-distributed vaccine, Americans appear less confident that the economy is heading in the right direction: In fact, the majority think things are getting worse.
According to a recent Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll conducted between Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, over half (54%) believe the current national economic situation is worsening, up from 52% in August.
However, much as the narratives on the economy themselves have been varied, some 26% of Americans polled think the economy is improving. And among those who identify as Republicans and Democrats, the contrast was stark: 50% of Republicans believed the economy was improving, versus only 9% of Democrats. Notably, though, Republicans were much more bullish on the economy before the election, when 62% of those polled between Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 thought the economy was improving.
Among income levels, meanwhile, at least roughly half of all income groups believed the economy was headed down the wrong path.
Nearly ten months into a pandemic that’s wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy, it’s not hard to understand why many Americans have a gloomy outlook.
To be sure, the economic rebound was better than many economists and analysts expected, and key data points like retail spending and the unemployment rate have continued to improve, albeit at a much slower pace in recent months. The most recent unemployment report on Dec. 4 showed that only 245,000 jobs were added in November, dropping the unemployment rate slightly to 6.7% from 6.9%.
“The recovery has lost some momentum, but it has continued,” Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America, recently told Fortune.
But at the current juncture, the recovery is starting to stagnate and needs an extra push to continue or risk a further decline, some economists argue. Roughly 13 million people are due to lose pandemic unemployment benefits on Dec. 26 without another relief package to extend them, and millions may be vulnerable to evictions in January.
“If we don’t get that help, [the recent unemployment] report suggests that the economy is going to start backtracking, we’re going to start losing jobs, and unemployment will start rising again,” Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi recently told Fortune. In fact, he argues without additional relief from Congress, “There’s a pretty good chance this will go down in history as a double-dip recession.”
That relief, though, has yet to materialize, even as Congress nears a deadline to pass a bill. And on Dec. 10, weekly jobless claims for the week ending Dec. 5 rose to 835,000 from 716,000 the week prior—higher than anticipated.
Fortune-SurveyMonkey polled 2,247 U.S. adults between Nov. 30 to Dec. 1. The margin of error is 3 percentage points.
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