WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 4 in 10 polled American citizens say they have had their wages cut or lost their jobs altogether because of the coronavirus lockdown, a new poll found, as Americans at all levels increasingly struggle to pay their bills.
The Pew Research Center study found 28 percent of respondents had lost their jobs or been laid off because of the lockdown. A third have had to take pay cuts. A combined 43 percent said one or both applied to them, The Hill reported. Hispanic Americans have been hardest hit, as more than 6 in 10 reported losing wages or jobs.
More than half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 and almost half of those between 30 and 49 said they had lost wages or jobs. Those who fall in lower-income brackets and those with lower levels of education were also more likely to say their pay had been cut or they lost a job.
The cuts are especially troubling if the threat of the lockdown extends for months. A majority of respondents, 53 percent, said they did not have enough in savings to cover their expenses for three months in case of an emergency like a complete pandemic-related shutdown.
Most Americans also expect the economic problems caused by the lockdown to extend for months, according to the new poll. Thirty-nine percent said they think those economic problems will last for more than a year, while 32 percent said they would last for at least six months.
Many Americans have begun receiving federal relief checks to help cover those expenses, and more than half of those who expect to receive a payment say they plan to use the money to pay bills or purchase essential goods for their families.
Most respondents, 88 percent, say they support the $2 trillion economic aid package Congress passed last month. And three-quarters say it will be necessary for Congress to pass new measures meant to provide even more relief.
But fewer than half, 46 percent, said the aid packages passed by Congress so far will do enough to help their own household. Most Americans think the relief packages are meant to help businesses, those who are unemployed, or state and local governments.
After a decade of recovery and growth from the last recession, the past month of tumult has sent economic optimism plunging off a cliff. Currently, just 23 percent of respondents say the economy is in excellent or good shape, down sharply from the 57 percent who said the same in Pew’s January survey. Three months ago, only 9 percent said economic conditions were poor — today, that number stands at 38 percent.
The rapid decline in economic optimism is faster than what has occurred in previous recessions, reflecting the speed with which the economy came to a grinding halt. Optimism took months to turn into pessimism during the tech bubble of the early 2000s, and even during the recession that began in 2007.