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Most Americans feel the economy is in recession despite strong job market, steady growth: survey

Nearly six in 10 Americans feel like the U.S. economy is currently in a recession despite avoiding the sharp downturn widely predicted by economists last year, according to a recent Bankrate survey.

This holds true across generations and income levels, the survey found. Generation X and Millennials were the most likely to say that the economy is in a recession, at 65 percent and 60 percent respectively.

However, Baby Boomers and Generation Z were not far behind, with 58 percent and 55 percent each saying the economy is currently in a downturn, according to the Bankrate survey conducted in late October with 2,404 U.S. adults.

Nearly equal portions of lower-income households — those making less than $50,000 — and higher-income households — those making more than $100,000 — also said they feel the economy is in a recession.

However, economists are much more optimistic about the state of the U.S. economy now compared to a year ago, when many were predicting a recession in the face of sky-high inflation and rising interest rates.

Despite dire predictions from economists and dour consumer sentiment, the U.S. has boasted low unemployment, steady economic growth and falling inflation throughout the year.

Just 3.9 percent of Americans were unemployed as of October, according to the Department of Labor, just 0.4 percentage points above the pre-pandemic level of 3.5 percent. The U.S. economy also grew at an annualized rate of 5.2 percent during the third quarter, according to the Commerce Department.

Since peaking at a rate of 9.1 percent last summer, inflation has eased significantly, falling to 3.2 percent as of October. While inflation remains above the Federal Reserve’s 2-percent target, the central bank has held interest rates steady for its last two consecutive meetings, as the economy shows signs of cooling.

“Americans seem to be evaluating the economy with different metrics than experts,” Bankrate analyst Sarah Foster said in a statement.

“While economists are watching carefully for broad-based declines in growth, households focus on whether they can afford their needs and the occasional wants while still having enough money leftover to put toward key financial goals like saving for emergencies and retirement,” she added.

Some 66 percent of Americans said the current economic environment has had a negative impact on their finances, while 64 percent said they have adjusted their financial habits in response, the Bankrate survey found.

“Americans judge the economy’s strength by their own individual experiences living within it, and nationwide numbers often don’t tell the same story as their finances,” Foster said.

While economists differ over what makes a recession, most agree that it is a prolonged period of low or negative economic growth with a serious increase in unemployment.

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