June 30, 2010 -- More than two years after the start of the recession, Americans in every corner of the country continue to feel the pinch of the economic downturn, a new survey finds.
More than half of all Americans say their work life has been impacted negatively and their finances are worse off, according to the report released today by the Pew Research Center.
The impact on jobs extends far beyond the 9.7 percent who are unemployed or the 16.6 percent of population that's either out of work underemployed, researchers found. Fifty-five percent of Americans have faced unemployment, experienced a cut in pay, a reduction in hours or have become involuntary part-time workers; and six in 10 Americans say they have cut back on their spending, the survey found.
The prolonged recession -- the longest in recent history -- has left a big mark on the country, said Paul Taylor, project director at Pew's Social and Demographic Trends project.
"What this report demonstrates is the breadth and depth of the impact of this recession on the American public. It's hit almost everybody in one way or another, and two and a half years after it began, people are still feeling the effects," Taylor told ABC News. "This is still very much with us."
The average unemployment time is 23.2 weeks, the longest it has ever been and well above the previous peak of 12.3 weeks in post World War II United States.
The report comes as lawmakers are trying to gather enough votes to extend unemployment benefits and an extension for the homebuyer tax credit program that gave a much-needed boost to the U.S. housing market. The administration has introduced several programs in recent years to fight the recession -- including the $787 billion stimulus package. At the same time, it's expanded existing programs, including food stamps and Social Security, but despite the federal assistance, Americans continue to feel the pinch.
About half of Americans, 48 percent, said their household's current financial situation is worse now than before the recession, and many see a long road to recovery, with 63 percent predicting that it will take them at least three years to recover financially.
More than a quarter of Americans -- about 26 percent -- say their children will have a worse standard of living, a sharp rise from a decade ago when only 10 percent of Americans thought that way, according to Pew.
"That's a question that kind of gets at one of the basic tenets of the American dream," Taylor said.
Party Allegiances Impact Economic Outlook
One of the most surprising findings though is that more Democrats are positive about an upturn in the economy even though it is Democrats who have taken a harder hit in terms of jobs, personal finances and wealth, the report states.
Americans' views on the economy are thus not only impacted by their own personal experience but also by their partisan framework, said Taylor.
"These harder hit groups (African Americans, young adults and Democrats) are more optimistic across the board than their relatively more sheltered counterparts," Taylor said. "We speculate... that this may be related to the election of Barack Obama. [The three groups] are among Barack Obama's most enthusiastic supporters. You appear to have a situation where they're in a frame of mind to see the glass half full rather than half empty."
That's a clear shift from the early part of the decade, when Republicans were more upbeat about the state of the economy than Democrats.