Sixty-one percent of the public believes the economy is now suffering through its first recession since 2001, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll.
The fallout from a depressed housing market and a credit crunch nearly caused the economy to stall in the final three months of last year. Some experts, like the majority of people questioned in the poll, say the economy actually may be shrinking now. The worry is that consumers and businesses will hunker down further and pull back spending, sending the economy into a tailspin.
“Absolutely, we’re in a recession,” said Hilda Sanchez, 44, of Waterford, Calif.
Squeezed by high energy and food bills, “we can’t afford the things that we normally buy,” she said. “We are cutting corners in our spending. For our groceries, we are buying a lot of generic and we are eating out less.”
For many, the meltdown in the housing and mortgage markets has proved especially disturbing. Record numbers of people were forced from their homes, unable to afford the monthly loan payments. People watched their single biggest asset fall in value, a reason to tighten the belt.