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Why Americans Remain Skeptical About the Economy

DESIREE NIKFARDJAM, HOST: This year, the American economy seems to be booming. Last month’s jobs report showed employers added over 350 thousand jobs! That means the unemployment rate has stayed under 4 percent for the last two years - a record-breaking achievement. But despite these strong numbers, New Yorkers remain doubtful about the economy. Tommaso Baronio reports.

TOMMASO BARONIO, BYLINE: There's a disparity in views on the American economy between the data and the opinions of Upper West Side residents.

Jasmine is working as a barista at a coffee shop on  96th Street. 

What do you think about the economy?

JASMINE: It’s a shit show. Prices are high in groceries and the job market, they say that there are a lot of jobs out there but there are not. 

BARONIO: Nearby Atty is sitting on the bench eating her lunch.


ATTY: The recession coming post covid is vary bad, especially at the inequality side of it. The polarization between rich and poor seems to be quite prominent at the moment.

BARONIO: Are you worried for your future?

ATTY: Yes, definitely.

BARONIO: Katrina sees a glimmer of hope amidst the darkness.

KATRINA: The economy is in recovery, the society is better than the media are saying. The wages are a big concern but it’s what happen to all developed countries. 

BARONIO: Guys, what’s happening? Americans never had so many jobs. 

DANIEL DI MARTINO: What we are experiencing now is some inertia from the high inflation we had a year ago. 

BARONIO:This is Daniel Di martino. He’s getting his Phd in Economics at Columbia University.

DI MARTINO: Unemployment is not the only thing that matters, people's real wages matter. Like if everybody has a job, but everybody's making 10% less, then that's not a good economy, right?

BARONIO: Di Martino says it just may take a while longer….

DI MARTINO: They're gonna have to feel it for some more time for their opinions to change.

BARONIO: Michael Hilliard teaches Economics at the University of Southern Maine. He says a lot of Americans are still living paycheck to paycheck.

MICHAEL HILLIARD: That large part of the population kind of close to the bone, and you get hit by some really sharp price increases, and it's going to have a big impact on your psychology.

BARONIO: He says people feel vulnerable. Half of the population can’t afford homes due to things like student loan debt or interest rates. But how people think about the economy is more than just numbers. 

HILLIARD: We live in an era where perceptions of the economy are highly correlated with party affiliation. when Donald Trump was in office, people who told pollsters they were Democrats thought the economy was doing poorly. And then when Joe Biden got elected president it reversed. Democrats thought the economy was doing much better once we got out of the pandemic. 

BARONIO: Well, it seems like it will be an interesting election year.

Tommaso Baronio, Columbia Radio News.  

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