Researchers at Rutgers' John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development surveyed online a national cross-section of 1,153 adults between July 24 and August 3. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points. The survey is part of a broader series of polls taken over multiple years to study the consequences of the recession for workers.
Recent evidence of economic strength has done little to brighten most Americans' outlooks. The Standard and Poor's 500 stock index has surged more than 170 percent since bottoming in March 2009. Yet only 14 percent of the respondents said the gains have affected them a lot —a sign of either meager investments or the extent to which families unloaded their stock holdings near the bottom of the market.
Employers have added an average of more than 244,000 jobs a month since February, a vigorous pace that recalls the dot-com era of the 1990s.
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Over the past 12 months, the unemployment rate has dropped more than a full percentage point from 7.3 percent to a nearly normal 6.2 percent.
This month, job growth helped propel the Conference Board's consumer confidence index to its highest reading since October 2007. The index often tracks the unemployment rate.
The gap between the index and the Rutgers survey likely reflects the type of questions posed by the university researchers. They asked about family finances, job satisfaction, retirement plans and the specific consequences of the recession. By contrast, the confidence index asks about broader perceptions of business and employment conditions and plans to buy autos, homes and household appliances.
—By The Associated Press