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AP-NORC poll: About half of workers lose income due to virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — About half of all working Americans report some kind of income loss affecting themselves or a member of their household due to the coronavirus pandemic, with low-income Americans and those without college degrees especially likely to have lost a job, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Sixty percent of Americans now say the national economy is “poor,” an alarmingly swift reversal from the 67% who called it “good” in January. The spike in pessimism has followed a stock market collapse and the closures of businesses around the country as regular economic activity has been halted in an attempt to limit the number of COVID-19 deaths to hundreds of thousands instead of millions.

The income losses include pay cuts, unpaid time off and reduced hours, as well as actual lost jobs, with 23% of adults who had work when the outbreak started saying they or a member of their household have since been laid off. A third of those in households making less than $50,000 a year say they or a household member have lost their job.

“It’s terrible and it’s going to get worse,” said Bill Ardren, 75, a retired community college vice president from Minnesota. “The stock market is down. Unemployment is up. Stores are shutting down. I don’t see any bright lights in the economy right now.”

The new AP-NORC survey results come as the Labor Department said Thursday a record 6.6 million Americans sought jobless benefits last week, a doubling of the previous record set just the prior week. Those figures suggest the United States lost about 6% of its 152 million jobs in half a month.

Samantha Lafitte, 30, of Moody, Texas, was furloughed from her job as a nurse at a gastro clinic. She will still draw some pay over the next two weeks, meaning that she and her husband have some time before any pressures build.

“But in three weeks, I won’t be paid anything,” said Lafitte, the mother of two children, 11 and 2. “It does put on a financial strain.”

Despite COVID-19’s pocketbook impact on millions of Americans, as well as their overall pessimism about the economy, the poll found majorities remain confident about their personal finances — as well as President Donald Trump’s handling of the economy.

“We’re at a bump in the road right now,” said Chip McEwen, 64, who worked in financial services and drives a charter bus in his semi-retirement in Montgomery, Alabama. “If the COVID-19 weren’t here, we would be rocking and rolling.”

A solid 62% of Americans say their own financial situation is good, down only slightly from 67% in January. People are also more likely to believe their financial situation will get better than get worse, 39% to 19%. Still, the percentage expecting a worsening situation for their personal finances is up slightly from 12% in January.

Opinions about the economy are still shaped by political beliefs — a sign of the persistent divisions that have defined the Trump era. Negative views have increased among Republicans, from 10% who called the economy poor in January to 35% now. They are now the overwhelming views among Democrats, up from 47% in January to 81% now.

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