MADISON—According to the quarterly consumer survey by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Silberman College of Business, 63 percent of New Jerseyans have lost a job or have a friend or relative who has lost a job in the past year, up nine points from January.
About a third (32 percent) say they are “somewhat” or “very worried” they will lose their job in the next 12 months, down from a high of 38 percent in April. Younger workers are significantly more likely to be worried about losing their job than older workers but, overall, two-thirds (67 percent) say they are “not very” or “not at all worried” that they may lose their job.
“There are sure signs that consumers are continuing to save money as a precaution against uncertainty,” said Sorin Tuluca, professor of finance at the Silberman College of Business and a specialist in financial crises. About half (48 percent) estimate they can live off their savings for more than six months, unchanged from April, but 52 percent of those aged 18-29 now say they can live off their savings for more than six months, up from 34 percent in April.
Meanwhile, just one in five (21 percent) say they let the unpaid balance on credit cards increase in the past year: only 8 percent say they will let the unpaid balance on their credit cards increase in coming months. But those who make less than $50,000 a year are more likely to have increased their credit card balance in the past year (27 percent) than those whose household income is over $100,000 (18 percent).
And one in five (19 percent) who make less than $50,000 say they will let their credit card balance increase in coming months, while only 7 percent of those earning from $50,000 to $100,000 say the same. Only 3 percent of those earning over $100,000 will let their unpaid balance increase.
Overall, 38 percent say making credit card payments is “somewhat” or “very difficult,” an increase of seven points from January, and a majority (56 percent) of those making under $50,000 say it’s somewhat or very difficult.
In fact, those earning less than $50,000 a year are more than twice as likely as those who make over 50,000 to say making credit card payments is “very difficult” and they are five times as likely as those who make over $100,000 to say making credit card payments is “very difficult.”
“But,” said Tuluca, “there are a number of indications that the economy has touched bottom. The stabilization of job losses and consumers’ expectation of better financial and employment conditions in coming months are signs that the recession has done its worst.”
While a majority (59 percent) say they are worse off now than they were a year ago, only a third (32 percent) think they’ll be worse off a year from now, and 45 percent think they’ll be better off a year from now.
Questions linger about long-run prospects for the economy. Only 30 percent say they feel confident that life for their children’s generation will be better than it has been for them: 63 percent feel “not confident.” Pessimism is higher among those over the age of 30 than it is for those under 30, but pessimism is also higher among the highest income earners.
“A prosperous generation facing unprecedented problems is naturally worried about their children’s prospects,” said Tuluca. “It’s enough to cloud anyone’s vision of the future.”
Asked whether President Barack Obama’s health care proposals will make them better or worse off, New Jerseyans split: a third (35 percent) say yes and a third (34 percent) say no, while a third (31 percent) say they are not sure.
The telephone survey 716 randomly selected adults throughout New Jersey who participate in their households’ financial decisions was conducted from June 22 through June 28 and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percent percentage points. The poll was sponsored by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Silberman College of Business and conducted by FDU’s PublicMind.
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