America's hidden boom
Listen to most experts, and you’d think the economy is going up in flames. In fact, tens of millions of U.S. households are thriving more than in decades.
Why it matters: High gas prices, stock market volatility and inflation are hiding the reality that the economy is working for a huge swath of Americans — and has richly bolstered their nest eggs.
Here's a rarity — a parade of encouraging news:
- Houses: It's hard to find one to buy — and the 66% of Americans who do own houses are seeing their home values soar. The middle class has made a whopping $2.1 trillion from homeownership in the past 10 years, Fortune reports.
- Retirement accounts: Despite the recent sell-off, they've been fattened by the stock market. And the share of people who say they expect to work past their early 60s has dropped below 50% for the first time.
- Jobs: 11.4 million are open. The unemployment rate is 3.6% — back to pre-pandemic lows.
- Safety nets: 68% of Americans say they have cash for a rainy day.
- Millennial homeownership: It’s at 43%, up from 37% last year.
Reality check: There's still plenty of pain in this economy — likely with much more to come.
- The tight housing market is pricing out millions of renters and potential buyers.
- Rising prices — at the pump and in the grocery store — are draining wallets.
That helps explain one of the bigger polling conundrums we've seen:
- We think things are going fine for us, but terribly for America. 78% of Americans are confident in their personal financial well-being, but just 24% are confident in the U.S.' financial well-being, per Federal Reserve data reported by the Atlantic's Derek Thompson (see chart above).
The bottom line: Things haven’t been so good for so many in decades, Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research told The New York Times.
- "You'd have to go back to the late 1990s to find a similar era. Before that, the 1960s."
Editor's note: This story was originally published on June 6.