CoronavirusPolitics & Money

Americans’ anxiety about bills dropped in May, Fed survey shows

Delinquency expectations in April were the highest in seven years after COVID-19 shut down the economy

Americans worried less about paying bills in May as the economy began reopening with new safety measures aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19.

About 12.6% of people worried they wouldn’t be able to make minimum debt payments in May, down from April’s seven-year high of 16.2%, according to a Federal Reserve survey of consumer expectations released on Friday.

That put consumers back on par with December, when many people were worried about paying for holiday gifts, not dealing with the worst pandemic in more than a century. As deaths from COVID-19 began to mount in mid-March, states shut down businesses and issued stay-at-home orders to stem the spread of the disease.

When states began reopening in May, the biggest relief was felt by people making between $50,000 and $100,000, according to the survey. The share of people in that income bracket who worried about making minimum debt payments fell to 10.3% from April’s 15.9%.

For people making over $100,000 a year, the share who worried they couldn’t pay their bills dropped to 6.7% from 7.2% in April. For people who made under $50,000 a year, the share dropped to 18.7% from 22.9%, the Fed report said.

Broken out by age, people who were over 60 years old worried the least. Only 7.9% were concerned about making minimum debt payments in May, down from 10.2% in April, which was the highest reading for that age bracket in Fed data going back to 2013.

People under 40 were the most concerned about debt – a 15.7% share worried about making minimum payments in May, down from 22.5% in April. For the 40 to 60-year-old age group, 14.8% of people worried about debt payments, down from 17.3% in April.

The nation’s economy entered a recession in February as COVID-19 began spreading in the U.S., the National Bureau of Economic Research said on Monday. The contraction ended an economic expansion that lasted for more than 10 and a half years, the longest on record.

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