That disconnect between macro economic trends and individual people's situations also feeds into a growing trend where people no longer trust official statistics. People often don't see the government's reported economic improvement reflected in their lives, and therefore don't believe it's actually happening.
Social media plays a role, allowing people in geographically distant parts of the country to meet and share their experiences, often finding common ground in economic hardship. Social media information flow also leads to like-minded individuals exchanging more and more isolated ideas among groups of people who think similarly.
"The increasing polarization of news through social media allows liberals and conservatives to live in different versions of reality," Timothy B. Lee wrote recently at Vox. Those differing realities could be a part of why people see their personal situation so differently from the economy as a whole.
It also leads to distrust of political polls and pollsters' statistical methods. That's one reason Donald Trump's supporters swear their candidate is actually winning, despite practically all professional polls showing otherwise.
Sometimes, statistical traditions become outdated with the shifting world. As we have reported, the "official" unemployment rate has returned to normal levels since the recession, but other metrics of employment have been more stubborn. As more workers have taken part-time positions because economic factors have made them, they would be left out of the official unemployment rate of 4.9 percent, but would be included other, more broadly defined metrics.
That doesn't mean the official unemployment rate is wrong, only that it's measuring something that might be less important to a certain segment of the workforce.