Most Americans Think We’re in Recession or Worse

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — It’s been nearly two years since the recession officially ended, but you wouldn’t know that by asking most Americans.

Just over a quarter of Americans believe the U.S. economy is currently in a recession, while another 29% say we’re actually in a depression, according to a new Gallup poll. Moreover, of those who say (correctly) that the U.S. economy is not in a recession, 16% say it’s slowing down, meaning that nearly three quarters of people believe we are either in a recession or depression, or at least getting closer toward one of these possibilities.

As Gallup notes, the number of Americans with a negative perception of the economy was significantly worse when surveyed in late 2008, at the peak of the recession, when nearly 70% said the country was in a recession or depression. However, the results this time around are actually worse than when the survey was conducted in February 2008, when less than half the country thought we were in a recession or depression – even though we were.

In that sense, the results may be proof that the country is slow to realize how bad the economy is, and slower still to internalize the economy’s improvements.

Indeed, many MainStreet readers have expressed a similar sentiment about the economy in recent months. “The economy has never left the recession,” one user wrote on a story about factors that could cause another recession, before citing several reasons for this belief, from “low paying jobs that do not cover the cost of living” to the rising price of gas and housing costs that are “still too high by at least 700%.”

While many, like the commenter, may still be suffering financially, the metrics for determining whether we are in a recession or not are very clear. The country’s gross domestic product, which represents our total economic output, must contract and hit negative numbers for the economy to be considered in a recession. While our GDP did slow in the first quarter of this year, it’s still not negative.  That said, there any number of signs that a recession could come down the road, from rising unemployment rates to retail sales, most of which have improved in recent months.