Tracking the Robust Boom In U.S. Economic Anxiety

As the economy slides toward a recession, consumer confidence has fallen sharply. There is, though, a dog that has yet to bark: Surveys continue to show few Americans have a deep fear of losing their jobs. A new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll sustains this theme. While 21 percent of respondents said the U.S. is already in recession and 32 percent expect one to hit within the year, just 7 percent said it’s “likely” they’ll lose their jobs. Still, even if they don’t think such a disaster is likely, Americans do fret about the possibility. A CBS News/New York Times poll, conducted earlier this month, picked up on that phenomenon. It found 54 percent of respondents feeling concerned that someone in their household would be laid off during the next two or three years. That’s up from the 49 percent expressing this fear in a poll conducted in February. Women are more apt than men to fear layoffs within their households:57 percent of the former, versus 51 percent of the latter, voiced this concern. In any case, Americans don’t lack for economic anxiety even before a recession takes hold. The chart above, summarizing a poll conducted at the end of January by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, shows a majority worried at least sometimes about staying afloat. One might suppose the number who “always” have this fear is partly related to the current slowdown. But while the figure is higher than that of Marist’s poll the previous year, it’s lower than the numbers (averaging 27 percent) found in the fat years of 1996, 1997 and 1998.