The experts say the recession ended in 2009; the people in North Carolina say it’s still going on. Moreover, by a large margin they expect it to drag on for two years or more.
That’s one finding from our July Civitas Poll which, along with others, reveals widespread pessimism about the economic outlook.
We asked likely voters if they thought the recession has ended, and if not, when the good times would roll again. Only 3 percent thought the recession was over. Even in groups that might be expected to hold a brighter view of the economy under the Obama administration, only a tiny fraction thought the economic slump has ended. Among self-identified liberals, 6 percent thought the recession has ended; among Democrats, it was 4 percent.
When the people polled were asked when they thought the economy would recover, 62 percent said it would take two years or more. Twenty-one percent thought it would take place between one and two years. In other words, four out of five say it will take at least a year; nearly two-thirds say it will take at least two years.
A closer look at other another question on the poll suggests why most voters have such a grim view of the economic future. We also asked people what their employment status is. Twelve percent said they are unemployed, far above the official unemployment rate of 9.4 percent. In our survey, the jobless rate was 27 percent for blacks. Also startling is the 61 percent rate for people ages 18-25. While from a relatively small number of respondents, it’s still startling.
Nor do older groups escape. In our poll, 18 percent of people ages 26 to 40 and 16 percent of people 41 to 55 reported they were unemployed. Let’s put it this way: The national joblessness rate in 1931, two years after the historic stock market crash, was 15.8 percent. That means that in our poll, people in their prime working years from ages 26 to 55 don’t merely view this as a recession, they’re in a depression.
Moreover, 38 percent of those 56 to 65 listed themselves as “retired.” Think about that: People who have decades of work experience and could be at their career peaks are instead sidelined. Note also that the number of retired in that age group has grown from 27 percent to 38 percent in a year. It’s reasonable to suspect that some of the people in this cohort would like to be working, but find it easier to call themselves “retired” rather than “unemployed.” Note that if you add in the 8 percent reported as unemployed, then 46 percent of the people in this age group polled this month, who should be at the summits of their careers, are instead idle. No economy can waste that kind of experience yet still expect to prosper.
Also ominous is where the cuts are coming from. We looked back at our polls from four years ago, July 2008, when unemployment was only 3 percent. Back then, 35 percent of the employed worked for a private company. A year ago, one of our polls reported that figure had shrunk to 32 percent a year ago. This year, only 26 percent report working for private business. Since private business is the engine that drives growth and productivity, such a shift is ominous for the future.
In short, it’s no wonder that people in North Carolina think we’re still in a recession, and why they doubt it will end soon: Our poll suggests that employment picture is worse than the official statistics indicate. People look around and see vulnerable groups such as minorities and the young especially hard hit, and that even those in their prime are struggling with Depression-era unemployment.
In other words, the ongoing recession is not some kind of myth: People see in their own lives, or the lives of people around them, that we’re still in a slump, and they sense it is worse than they are being told and could last quite a while.
Text of questions:
Thinking about the economy, in your opinion, how much longer do you think it will take for the economy to improve and the current recession to end? If you think the current recession has ended just say so.
5/11 9/11 3/12 7/12
1% 2% 1% 1% Under 6 months
7% 3% 7% 4% Between 6 months and a year
22% 24% 23% 21% Between 1 and 2 years
60% 62% 54% 62% Over 2 years.
3% 1% 6% 3% Recession has ended
7% 8% 9% 9% Don’t Know
In terms of your current employment status, would you say you…
7/11 9/11 10/11 1/12 2/12 3/12 5/12 7/12
10% 11% 8% 11% 10% 11% 9% 11% Are Self Employed
32% 26% 29% 28% 31% 28% 30% 26% Work for a Private Company
13% 11% 14% 10% 11% 10% 9% 10% Work for Government
6% 6% 7% 8% 6% 5% 5% 6% Are a Spouse (Homemaker)
27% 31% 28% 32% 30% 33% 33% 32% Are Retired
11% 9% 8% 8% 8% 7% 9% 12% Are Unemployed
2% 5% 6% 4% 4% 5% 5% 3% Don’t Know/Refused