Is the economy improving? It’s a simple question that divides friends and family and makes economists go prematurely gray. Unemployment is low, but so is the labor participation rate; new home construction is down but it was a snowy winter; U.S. economic confidence is positive but volatile.
So which is it? Are things getting better or worse? Our very own Rick Newman took to the streets of Times Square to find out.
Sentiment was mixed; for the most part people felt that things weren’t great, but that they were getting better. The number one complaint was about jobs. One man said he had college-educated friends who were making minimum wage at McDonald’s, a woman said it took her seven years to find a new job after being laid off, despite having a bachelor's and master's degree. Acknowledging that the unemployment rate is at 5.5%, she says, it feels a lot higher because of underemployment and the large number of people she knows who have given up on looking for a job.
The general feeling was that people were attempting to save more and spend less. A woman from Dallas, Texas said that she was saving more money because she took on a second job and put all earnings from that job away. A young man who used to spend upwards of $300 on a pair of shoes said that he was trying to reform and stop spending outside of his means in order to 'keep up with the Joneses.' The number one thing people were spending money on? A new cellphone, nearly everyone we spoke to said that was his or her largest purchase this year.
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