Here’s how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected Americans’ paychecks and working hours
More than one-third of households have lost income since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to the latest results from our ongoing Marketplace-Edison Research Poll.
Our latest survey, conducted at the end of April, looks at how Americans are dealing with the crippling unemployment rate and the economic uncertainty fueled by the COVID-19 crisis. (Read more about our methodology below.)
The poll, which launched in September 2015, includes an Economic Anxiety Index® that gauges how people feel about their personal financial situation. The higher the number, the more stressed you are.
In our latest round of results, the Economic Anxiety Index® saw the highest survey-to-survey spike since the series began. It had steadily dropped since 2017, reaching a record low of 28 in May 2019, and has now jumped to a near high of 35.
We examined how the pandemic has affected American’s paychecks, their ability to pay household expenses and how they think President Donald Trump is handling the current economic crisis. Here are some of our key findings:
Employment and income
More than 32% of households say they’ve lost income since the pandemic began. About 26% of Americans who are currently working say they’ve experienced a paycut, while 36% are working fewer hours.
For those who are able to work from home, there are disparities depending on the level of education they’ve attained. About 71% of workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher are now working from home compared to 32% of those without a bachelor’s degree.
About 26% of those with a high school education or less say they can work from home, compared to almost 80% of those with postgraduate degrees.
About 69% of the American workforce is either unemployed or fears losing their jobs in the next 12 months, a massive shift from just a few months ago. In September, the unemployment rate had ticked down to 3.5% — a 50-year low. Nearly a quarter of Americans are not at all confident that they would find a new job within six months if they were to lose their current job. (That’s more than double since last year.)
And for those who have been laid off or furloughed, applying for unemployment benefits has been challenging, with business owners telling Marketplace the application process has been confusing.
Since the pandemic began forcing businesses to close six weeks ago, a record 30 million Americans have applied for state jobless benefits. More than one-third of Americans in our poll who have applied for unemployment say they have unsuccessfully been able to file for benefits.
Paying the bills
As the unemployment rate reaches record highs, 41% of Americans say they could not pay an unexpected $250 expense, while 59% could not pay an unexpected $1,000 expense.
About 44% of Americans who are 18 years old and over say they’re afraid they will be unable to afford food or groceries. More than half of Americans are also afraid of a break in the food supply chain — several food processing plants have closed after becoming hot spots for COVID-19 infections.
Meanwhile, more than half of homeowners with a mortgage are afraid they will be unable to make a payment, up dramatically from last year. The median monthly mortgage payment for U.S. homeowners is $1,100, according to the latest American Housing Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.
To close or open?
Just under half of Americans, or 48%, approve of the way President Donald Trump is handling the economy, according to the Marketplace-Edison Research Poll. Trump has been pushing for businesses to reopen, while at the same time saying that the death toll could reach 100,000.
No state that’s planning to reopen has come close to the federally recommended decline in cases over a two-week period, NBC News wrote. However, more than half of states are moving forward with plans to get businesses up and running again. States like Georgia and Texas have already started to ease restrictions and allowed some businesses to resume operations, while California plans to this week and New York is allowing its upstate region to reopen, possibly after May 15.
About 81% of Democrats in our poll say that continuing to stay home is more important than reopening the economy, while Republicans are split on the issue. Forty-seven percent of Republicans say it’s more important to stay home, while 52% say it’s more important to reopen the economy.
Sixty-five percent of independents say the U.S. should continue stay-at-home orders, while 30% of independents are in favor of relaxing them and reopening the economy.
The Marketplace-Edison Research Survey is a national survey of Americans 18 and older. A total of 1,018 respondents were interviewed, with 500 interviews conducted by telephone and 518 interviews conducted online. The interviews were conducted from April 23-28, 2020.
The data was weighted to match the most recent United States population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau for age, gender, race, income and region of the country.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
How are Americans feeling about their finances?
Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.
Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.
Are people still waiting for unemployment payments?
Yes. There is no way to know exactly how many people have been waiting for months and are still not getting unemployment, because states do not have a good system in place for tracking that kind of data, according to Andrew Stettner of The Century Foundation. But by his own calculations, only about 60% of people who have applied for benefits are currently receiving them. That means there are millions still waiting. Read more here on what they are doing about it.
What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?
A report out Tuesday from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.
As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.
Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.
Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.