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Americans express mixed feelings about job market and economy

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Over the past few months the stock market has soared, with the Dow Jones Index hitting some of the best numbers in over five years.

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NEW YORK, N.Y. – Over the past few months the stock market has soared, with the Dow Jones Index hitting some of the best numbers in over five years. But housing stats have been up and down and consumer confidence has also been shaky. Add to this mix the impending sequester and spending cuts, and there could be some mixed feelings on the overall economy. Looking ahead, one-third of Americans (32%) expect the economy to be better in the coming year, two in five (40%) expect it to stay the same and almost three in ten (28%) expect it to get worse. These numbers are similar to one year ago, when 36% said the economy would be better, 40% said it would stay the same and 24% said it would get worse.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,496 adults surveyed online between February 13 and 18, 2013 by Harris Interactive.

Looking at household financial conditions, half of Americans (50%) believe their financial conditions will remain the same over the next six months, while 23% believe it will be better and 27% believe it will get worse. There is a generational divide, with Echo Boomers (those 18-36) more likely than Matures (those 67 and older) to believe things will be better – 30% vs. 14%.

The Job Market
While there is still a concern about unemployment, more Americans say the job market in their region of the country is good (21%) than have said so since July of 2008, when 30% called the job market good. Although the numbers are improving, almost half of U.S. adults say that the job market in their region is bad (48%), while 31% say it is neither good nor bad.

The improvements in the job market are encouraging, but expectations for the future are mixed. Currently, 28% of Americans believe the job market in their region is going to be better over the next six months, while half (52%) say it will remain the same. One in five (19%) think it will be worse. Looking back almost a year to last March, one-third of U.S. adults (33%) thought the job market would be getting better, half (50%) thought it would remain the same and 17% believed it would be getting worse over the next six months.

Politics and the Economy
With all eyes on Washington this week for the sequester and in March as the current continuing resolution for keeping the government funded runs out, President Obama heads into these talks with Congress with mixed news. First, over one-third of Americans (36%) give him positive ratings on his handling of the economy which is the highest he has been since May, 2010. But almost two-thirds (64%) give the president negative ratings on how he is handling the economy. When it comes to confidence in the White House and Administration producing policies to help fix the economic crisis, over one-third of U.S. adults (37%) are confident they will be able to do so, but 63% are not confident.

The Cost of Living
One of the main issues with this recovery is that expenses, such as gas, are taking a growing toll on paychecks that haven’t increased very much in the past few years. A majority of Americans (57%) are concerned that their family’s income will not be enough to cover all of their costs and expenses this year, while 43% are not concerned. One positive note is that this is down from the 63% who stated they were concerned last year. Not surprisingly, the higher a person’s household income, the less likely they are to be concerned about covering their costs and expenses. However, it is somewhat alarming that large numbers of people even in the highest income brackets—47% of those who earn $75,000 to $99,999 and 37% of those who earn $100,000 or more—say they are concerned about meeting their costs and expenses.

So What?
Conflicting economic indicators, coupled with the continued stalemate in Washington, D.C. over budgetary issues, has created mixed feelings among Americans towards these various economic indicators. One issue that still hasn’t been eased in the public’s mind is that almost half (48%) believe the U.S. is still in a recession and only one-quarter (24%) believe the U.S. has come out of a recession and the economy is growing. Until consumers feel more confident that there are policies are in place to help and that they have enough money to pay their monthly bills, they will likely hold off on spending. This will not help the economy bounce back in a steady manner.

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