According to a nationwide survey released Thursday by Citi and Hart Research Associates, nearly two-thirds of Americans (62%) believe the economy still has yet to hit bottom, with a lack of jobs and troubles managing debt largely responsible for the gloomy outlook. Although Department of Commerce data indicates the economy has been growing since Q309, the survey indicates two main reasons Americans feel it’s slipping: financial instability and the lack of U.S. employment. Americans are predicting that the effects of the recession will last years into the future, with 62% stating they believe it will be at least two or three years before the economy stabilizes for their household. Another 28% stated they believe it will be four or more years, even though 17% said their financial situation has improved over the past 12 months. These results may be correlated to Americans’ debt situation. According to the survey, a quarter of the populous responded that there is at least one category of debt they find as a major challenge or unbearable to manage. The categories include health expenses (11%), credit card debt (9%), mortgage debt (6%), student loans (5%), consumer loans (2%) and child support (1%). Still, 64% reported being very or somewhat optimistic about their financial situation improving over the next 12 months. 49% said that local employment opportunities were poor, the highest percentage in the category. “Clearly, the mood of Americans has been heavily influenced by the unemployment numbers here at home and the news of economic woes in Europe,” said Jonathan Clements, director of financial education at Citi Personal Wealth Management. “The big question is, could the gloomy news become a self-fulfilling prophesy, prompting consumers to restrain their spending, thus hurting economic recovery?” The numbers suggest that consumers might very well be following this trend. 62% of Americans believe the current economic conditions are either fair or poor for making a major household purchase, up from 61% in March. Postponing buying or improving a house isn’t the only way Americans are cutting spending. The survey found that 51% of the general public will not take any vacation at all this summer, something that would have helped local economies. Some experts dispute the negative outlook on consumer spending. According to Pat Conroy, vice chairman of Deloitte, an auditing and consulting firm, Americans aren’t withholding spending money, but finding smarter ways of investing their money. “We continue to witness consumers creating a whole new rule book and skill set for shopping that’s based on value, not boasting of brands,” said Conroy. “As a result, consumer product marketers shouldn’t expect to see a return to the carefree spending or impulsivity more reminiscent of the mid-2000s.” Write to Christine Ricciardi.
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