The New York Times Company
Businesses are beginning to reopen and new coronavirus cases are declining, but Americans don’t expect life — or the economy — to return to normal any time soon.
Only 1 in 5 Americans expects overall business conditions to be “very” or “somewhat” good over the next year, according to a poll conducted this month for The New York Times by the online research platform SurveyMonkey. Sixty percent said they expected the next five years to be characterized by “periods of widespread unemployment or depression.”
Those numbers are little changed from a month earlier, and may even reflect a slight decline in outlook, signaling that the reopenings and federal and state political moves to deal with the pandemic have had little impact on confidence.
Other data tells a similar story. A survey from the University of Michigan last week found that consumers’ assessment of current economic conditions had improved modestly in early May, but that their view of the future had continued to darken.
Among those surveyed who were working before the pandemic, about 1 in 10 had lost their jobs in the last two months, and roughly one-third had had their hours cut or otherwise lost income. Of those who had kept their jobs, about 1 in 3 were at least somewhat worried about losing them.
Democrats are more pessimistic than Republicans, as they have been throughout President Donald Trump’s term. But confidence has fallen sharply among members of both parties. Perhaps the starkest divide, however, is between those who have already lost jobs and those who have been relatively unaffected by the pandemic’s economic toll.
Among those who have kept their job and their hours, more than 80 percent say their finances are at least as good as a year ago. For those who have lost their jobs, however, the picture is different. Two-thirds say their finances have taken a hit, and most don’t expect their situation to improve over the next year. Many are skeptical that they will quickly find a new job, and are worried about the health risks if they do return to work. And despite the federal government’s steps to expand access to unemployment benefits during the crisis, most were not yet receiving benefits as of early May.