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Rutgers survey finds recession took toll on Americans' spirit

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Americans fear the impact of the Great Recession is a permanent one, according to a new national study from Rutgers University.

The Work Trends report from the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development said seven in 10 U.S. residents feel like the economy has undergone a permanent worsening, Rutgers said in a news release. That is up from 50 percent of Americans in 2009, when the recession officially ended.

The study, called “Unhappy, Worried and Pessimistic: Americans in the Aftermath of the Great Recession,” also found that most Americans do not think the economy has improved in the past year, or will improve in the coming year.

One in three thinks the economy has gotten better over the past year, while one-quarter thinks it will improve next year.

That pessimistic outlook is based on experience, according to Carl Van Horn, director of the center and co-author of the report.

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“Fully one-quarter of the public says there has been a major decline in their quality of life owing to the recession, and 42 percent say they have less in salary and savings than when the recession began,” he said in a prepared statement. “Despite five years of recovery, sustained job growth and reductions in the number of unemployed workers, Americans are not convinced the economy is improving.”

Other key findings of the study included that only one out of six Americans think job opportunities for the next generation will be better than for their own; that contrasts with four in 10 in the 2009 study.

Another negative finding is that about four in five Americans have little or no confidence that the U.S. government will make progress toward alleviating the nation’s most important problems during the next year.

Finally, the study grouped Americans into one of five categories, based on the impact the recession had on their lives:

  • 16 percent were “devastated”
  • 19 percent were “downsized”
  • 10 percent were “set back”
  • 22 percent were “troubled”
  • 33 percent were “unscathed”

“Looking at the aftermath of the recession, it is clear that the American landscape has been significantly rearranged,” professor Cliff Zukin, co-author of the survey, said in a statement. “With the passage of time, the public has become convinced that they are at a new normal of a lower, poorer quality of life. The human cost is truly staggering.”

The survey of 1,153 Americans was conducted between July 24 and Aug. 3.

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Eric Strauss

Eric Strauss

Eric Strauss is the digital content editor for NJBIZ. He has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as for a number of websites. You can contact him at erics@njbiz.com or @acerimrat on Twitter.

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