A report released recently on the state of America's workforce finds that five years into the worst economic downturn since the Great Recession of the 1930s, the Great Recession of 2008 has produced aftershocks for millions of Americans who are still "badly and perhaps permanently damaged financially and deeply pessimistic about near- and long-term prospects" for the U.S. economy.
The report, Diminished Lives and Futures: A Portrait of America in the Great-Recession Era, is a new nationwide survey from the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, based at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
According to report authors, six in ten Americans believe that the nation's economy has undergone a permanent change. More than half say that the economy will take at least six years to fully recover from the Great Recession, with 29 percent saying the economy will never fully recover. Only one in five are confident that job and career opportunities will be better for the next generation of American workers.
The economic retrenchment, made worse by a slow recovery, has transformed American workers’ financial and job security and altered their expectations about the American economy, the report concludes.
Other key findings from Diminished Lives and Futures: A Portrait of America in the Great-Recession Era include:
- Some 73 percent either lost a job themselves, or have a member of their household, a close relative, or a friend lose a job at some point in the past four years.
- A majority of Americans (56%) report having less money in savings than before the recession began, including 38% who say they have a lot less.
- The vast majority thinks that college will be permanently out of the financial range for most young people. More than half of those who were laid off or lost a job during the recession say they cut back on medical treatment or doctor visits, 40 percent borrowed money from family or friends, and just under one in four sought professional help for stress or depression.
A majority of reemployed workers found new jobs within a few months, but nearly half were searching for seven months or more while some have yet to find new jobs. Half of the reemployed workers have settled for less pay and lower status in their new positions.
Many unemployed Americans remain hopeful about their job prospects, they are much less optimistic about the safety net, as 6 in 10 are concerned that their unemployment insurance will run out before they find another job. Over one-quarter of those who were reemployed after being laid off say their unemployment insurance benefits ran out before they found new work.
More than half report they have less in savings than before the recession began.
On the question of their future as it pertains to employment, college affordability, job security, retirement, and other tenets of American prosperity, more than twice as many respondents have a negative vision of the future compared to those with a positive one. Only 19 percent agree that overall job, career, and employment opportunities will be better for the next generation. Six in ten Americans believe they will not recover from the effects of the recession, a sobering assessment of the American recovery, the report said.
The report was authored by Professors Carl Van Horn and Cliff Zukin and Graduate Research Assistant Mark Szeltner of the Heldrich Center. The report is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,090 employed and unemployed Americans interviewed January 9 to 16, 2013 using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel(r) conducted by GfK.
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