Americans' View of Economy Hits Post-Recession High

But dissatisfaction with standard of living lingers

By
Steve Liesman (CNBC)
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Americans' views on the economy are the best they've been since the recession began, but the recent improvement tallied in June's CNBC All-America Economic Survey masks a long-run negative shift in the public's satisfaction with their standard of living.

The survey of 810 Americans across the country from all income groups, occupations and regions, finds more people think their home values will go up and fewer judge the current state of the economy as poor than at any time since the recession began.

Forty-one percent of Americans expect their wages will increase over the next 12 months, the largest percentage since 2008.

(Read More: US Consumer Confidence Hits Five-Year High)

But compared to 2007, Americans are far less satisfied with their standard of living relative to where they hoped they would be.

A full 44 percent said their current standard of living has fallen short of their expectations, compared with just 28 percent when CNBC last asked the question in 2007. Only 54 percent say their current standard of living has met or exceeded their expectations versus 71 percent in 2007.

The change is broad-based across income groups, but the most significant shift has occurred among the poor and middle class.

For example, in 2007, 71 percent of those with annual incomes between $30,000 and $50,000 said their standard of living met or exceeded their expectations. That percentage dropped sharply to 49 percent in the latest survey.

Only one group measured no shift in the six-year period: those with postgraduate degrees. Eighty percent of them say they are satisfied with their economic station.

Even the wealthy saw a drop in the measure: 69 percent of those with annual incomes of at least $75,000 said their standard of living met or exceeded their expectations, down from 86 percent in 2007.

Apart from that long-term shift, the most recent findings on economic attitudes are encouraging:

  • Forty percent judge the economy as poor, compared with an average since 2008 of 54 percent.
  • Fifteen percent are upbeat on the current economic situation and optimistic, double the average since 2008.
  • Thirty-eight percent expect their home value to increase, compared with an average of 23 percent since 2008.
  • The average expected home price rise over the next year jumped to 3.1 percent, compared with 1.6 percent in the March survey. It's the best number since October 2007.
  • Forty-one percent see higher wages in the next 12 months, the highest reading since 2008.

One strange result from the data is that while the official inflation figures have been very low, the All-America survey continues to pick up concern among the public over rising prices. The median expected rise in the price of everyday goods in the next year jumped to 4.3 percent from 3.8 percent in March.

Optimism over the stock market took a step down in the June survey, with 36 percent saying now is a good time to invest in equities, compared with 40 percent in March.

The current level, however, remains above the roughly 30 percent average of the past several years.

(Read More: New Homes Sales Hit Nearly 5-Year High)

A 73 percent majority of Americans said the stock market's all-time high has no impact on their investment decisions.

The survey was conducted for CNBC by Hart/McInturff of Washington. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

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Apr
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