Massive federal stimulus payments, rising vaccinations and a steep drop in coronavirus cases have eased the angst of Americans, but most still don’t feel secure about their financial well-being.
The way people feel about their finances is still about 12% below pre-pandemic levels, according to year-long polling by Morning Consult. The anxiety is worst in the South and West and in states such as Nevada and Hawaii whose economies rely heavily on tourism.
Morning Consult’s weekly poll of consumer confidence has been one of the best surveys to gauge how Americans have reacted to the coronavirus over the past year. The poll results are included in MarketWatch’s Coronavirus Recovery Tracker.
The latest findings, drawn from some 2.6 million interviews in the past year, showed that people in the Northeast feel the most upbeat about their finances.
Even though the Northeast has been of the nation’s biggest coronavirus hotspots, states in the region provide bigger unemployment benefits than most of the rest of the country.
“The generosity of unemployment benefits likely explains some of these regional divergences,” Morning Consult said.
Other potential factors:
The Northeast may have more people who can work from home in a region of the country with a high percentage of professional workers and the densest array of high-speed Internet lines.
The Northeast also voted heavily for President Joe Biden. Other surveys show big partisan divides in how Americans view their financial health. Democrats turned a lot more optimistic — and conservatives more pessimistic — after the election.
Anxiety was the highest in the South even though most states avoided strict lockdowns and their economies stayed more open. Lower jobless benefits and fewer stay-at-home work opportunities may have played a role.
The states in which anxiety is the highest are those whose economies are highly dependent on tourism and travel. Not surprisingly, the hardest hit were vacation hot spot Hawaii and gambling mecca Nevada.
To be sure, confidence is likely to rise, and sharply, if coronavirus cases continue to decline. Most Americans who want a vaccine should be able to get one within the next month.
The economy itself is already firing back up in a big way, with the U.S. adding more than 900,000 new jobs in March alone.
Many of these new jobs were in businesses that suffered the worst during the pandemic, such as airlines, hotels, resorts, restaurants, entertainment venues and places of amusement. More Americans are flying and planning vacations — good news for tourism-dependent states.