Our View

Confidence returns, along with jobs

By From page A4 | May 01, 2013

The issue: The recession is only well and truly over when Americans believe it is, and now, apparently, they do

The economic statistics show that the United States has slowly but steadily dug its way out of the Great Recession, which economists date as officially starting in December 2007 and ending in June 2009.

But psychologically, the recession lasted a lot longer, until quite recently, in fact, when the housing and job markets began improving.

PROOF THAT THE recession mentality has passed comes in the form of the 2012 General Social Survey. The long-standing poll has been done every two years since 1972 by an independent research organization based at the University of Chicago and largely funded by the National Science Foundation.

A key measure of confidence — maybe the key measure — is how strongly Americans feel they’ll be able to find another job if they lose the one they have.

GSS found that 54 percent of Americans thought it would be somewhat or very easy to find another if they lost theirs, up from 46 percent in 2010, the lowest since the last severe recession in 1983. The historical average in Americans’ faith in their ability to quickly find new work is 58 percent, says the Associated Press.

Another factor is that the number of layoffs has dropped to a 12-year low. Employers added 2.2 million jobs in 2012, and this year the unemployment rate has edged down to 7.6 percent.

GSS found that the fear of being laid off had dropped from its peak in 2010 to roughly the average of the past 35 years. Last year, according to the survey, 11 percent of adults feared that it was somewhat or very likely that they would lose their jobs, a rate that’s close to the historical norm. In 2010, a record 16 percent of workers feared they were in imminent danger of losing their jobs.

GSS FOUND, as have other surveys, that job confidence correlates closely with education. In 2012, only 6 percent of college-educated Americans thought they might lose their job; for those without a high school diploma the figure was 26 percent.

The recession is only well and truly over when Americans believe it is, and now, apparently, they do.

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