16/11/2021

Pay as you go on

By some measures, America has spent 2021 recovering from the worst of the impact of covid-19 on its economy. Stockmarket indices have been breaking records and unemployment is well down from last year. But asking Americans how they think their economy is doing shows a different picture.

According to an average of the past four weekly polls conducted by YouGov on behalf of The Economist, 46% of American adults believe the state of the economy is “getting worse” whereas only 19% think it is “getting better.” Just six months ago, roughly 30% of Americans polled believed that the country’s economy was improving. Why have they changed their minds?

One cause of this paradox is that although American workers are finding jobs, the cost of the things they need to buy with their wages has increased rapidly in recent months. In October the consumer-price index rose by 6.2% compared with a year earlier, the highest rate in more than three decades. Petrol costs are 50% higher than a year ago, tracking the surge in oil prices. Used cars are 26% dearer than a year ago.

Wages in the rich world are rising. But rising prices in America are putting some products out of reach. According to YouGov’s polling, 56% of adults say they are having trouble affording petrol, 48% cannot easily pay their rent or mortgages and 45% are struggling to put food on the table. For most Americans the numbers on the tills at the grocery store matter more than the numbers on the tickers on Wall Street. 

This article is from our Graphic detail section.