Report: Families fared better in July than April, but uncertainty over jobs/work continues

U.S. families reported they were doing better in July than they were in April, but uncertainty over layoffs and prospects for returning to work were still afflicting many, the results of a Federal Reserve survey released Friday indicate, the agency said.

According to data collected to supplement the Fed’s seventh annual Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking, 77% of adults said they were doing at least okay financially, up from 72% in early April, and 75% in October 2019, the agency said.

“This increase is likely due to some people returning to work as well as the availability of assistance programs either from the government or from charitable organizations,” the Fed said in its analysis. “A substantial number of families received one or more forms of financial assistance, and the effects of these programs were apparent in people’s overall financial well-being and ability to cover expenses.”

The July survey also showed, the Fed said, that people appeared better able to handle small financial emergencies than they were nine months prior in October 2019. According to the survey results, 70% of adults said in July that they would be able to pay an unexpected $400 emergency expense entirely by using cash, savings, or a credit card paid off at the next statement – an increase from 63% in October 2019.

Although some people have returned to their jobs, the Fed said, the survey results indicate many others remain out of work. Fourteen percent of all adults reported being laid off since the pandemic began, the Fed said. Among those laid off, 30% said in the July survey that they had returned to their former jobs, up from 5% in April. An additional 10% said they were working elsewhere and did not expect to return to their old jobs.

In addition, the Fed said, in July 22% of adults who had been laid off said that they were not employed and that they did not expect to return to their old jobs. This is up from 7% of laid-off workers who reported in April that they were not employed and did not expect to return to their old jobs.

Laid-off workers with low incomes are somewhat less likely to have returned to the same job, according to the latest results, the Fed said. Of those, 25% with family incomes under $40,000 returned to the same job, compared with 39% of laid-off workers with family incomes over $100,000.

Because of the evolving, on-going financial repercussions of the coronavirus crisis, the Fed said it plans to field its complete annual Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking in the fourth quarter of 2020 to continue to monitor the economic well-being of U.S..

Federal Reserve Board issues Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households