For the public, the continuing financial crisis has been overtaken by a jobs crisis. The proportion of Americans citing jobs or unemployment as the nation's most important economic problem has more than quadrupled – from 10% to 42% – since early October and job worries now far surpass concerns over the financial crisis.
People's perceptions of the availability of jobs in their areas have worsened as the unemployment rate has increased. Fully 80% say that jobs are difficult to find in their local communities – up seven points since December and 16 points since early October. Overall views of the national economy, already quite negative at the end of last year, have declined further; 30% say the country is in a depression, up from 20% as recently as December.
As has been the case since the financial crisis began, a sizable minority of Americans (40%) say they expect economic conditions to be better a year from now. But the proportion expressing that optimistic view has declined by six points since early October, while the percentage saying they expect things to be worse or the same a year from now has increased from 46% to 56%.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Feb. 4-8 among 1,303 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, finds that an increasing proportion of workers expect to face some form of job or benefit cutbacks in the year ahead. More than three-quarters (77%) of working adults say it is not likely they will actually be laid off in the next year, but 21% say a layoff is very or somewhat likely, up from 15% in January 2008. The percentage saying it is at least somewhat likely they may be asked to take pay cut has nearly doubled since the beginning of last year – from 13% to 25%.
Read the full report As Jobs Crisis Spreads, Worries Climb the Economic Ladder on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.