As US Job Market Strengthens, Many Don’t Feel It

September 12, 2014 8:30 am  |  Comments: 0  | Views: 1152
    

The U.S. unemployment rate has plunged since the start of last year to a five-year low of 6.1 percent. And the July jobs report being released Friday will likely show a sixth straight month of healthy 200,000-plus gains.

Yet for Douglas Hunter and millions like him, happy days aren’t quite here again.

Hunter earned $14 an hour cleaning oil drums before the Great Recession seized the economy and his job was axed. At 53, Hunter now works three days a week for $9.25 an hour, mopping floors and fixing fryers at two McDonald’s restaurants in Chicago.

“If the economy is getting better, I’m not sure for whom,” he said. “It certainly hasn’t trickled down to me.”

The Gallup Organization has found that consumers’ view of the economy is the glummest it’s been in seven months.

As the economic recovery enters its sixth year, a number of factors help explain why many Americans don’t feel better off: Income hasn’t rebounded. Millions are working part time even though they want full-time jobs. It’s taking longer to find work. People are still struggling with mortgage debt. Some feel down about the economy because of their political views. And most people don’t feel free to spend as much as they used to.

A closer look at the factors:

LAGGING INCOME

Most people are still earning less, adjusted for inflation, than before the recession struck at the end of 2007. Even many who kept their jobs through the recession — or easily found work after being let go — are no better off. The typical family income in current dollars is $52,959, according to Sentier Research. Factoring in inflation, that’s $3,303 less than before the recession — a nearly 6 percent drop.

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