Most U.S. households continue living paycheck to paycheck in an economy near a 50-year low regarding unemployment, according to the latest survey from the Fed.
The Fed’s 2018 report published Thursday on the economic well-being of U.S. households shows “most measures” of well-being and financial independence “were similar to, or slightly better than, those in 2017.” The improvement coincides with a decline in overall unemployment from 4.3% in 2017 to 3.9% in 2018.
Despite the downtick in unemployment, the survey also showed that about 40% of U.S. households would struggle to pay as little as $400 in a financial emergency. The percentage is slightly better than in 2017.
“Relatively small, unexpected expenses, such as a car repair or replacing a broken appliance, can be a hardship for many families without adequate savings,” the report reads. “When faced with a hypothetical expense of $400, 61% of adults in 2018 say they would cover it, using cash, savings, or a credit card paid off at the next statement.
“Among the remaining 4 in 10 adults who would have more difficulty covering such an expense, the most common approaches include carrying a balance on credit cards and borrowing from friends or family.”
The survey of 11,000 people was done in October and November of 2018, and shows a quarter of Americans don’t feel like they are doing “at least OK” financially, and the number was significantly higher among black and Hispanic Americans, at about one-third for both.
For people making less than $40,000 a year, the number rises to 44% of respondents who don’t feel they are doing well economically.
“We continue to see the growing U.S. economy supporting most American families,” Fed Governor Michelle Bowman said in a press release accompanying the report.
“At the same time, the survey does find differences across communities, with just over half of those living in rural areas describing their local economy as good or excellent compared to two-thirds of those living in cities. Across the country, many families continue to experience financial distress and struggle to save for retirement and unexpected expenses.”