Fed Survey: Amid Pandemic, Americans Remain Able to Cover Emergency Expenses

May 15, 2020

One in five adults employed in February had been furloughed or laid off by April, according to the Federal Reserve’s annual Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households released yesterday. The burden of job losses associated with COVID-19 and the public health response fell most sharply on lower-income workers, with 39% of those employed in February with household income below $40,000 reporting a job loss.

Nine in 10 people who had lost their jobs in March were still connected to their employers, however, with 77% told to expect to return to work but not given a date and 14% given a specific date or already brought back by mid-April. As expected under states’ stay-at-home orders, 53% of those still employed did some of their work from home, and 41% did all their work remotely—up from 7% in 2019.

The April 2020 survey showed that 64% of Americans would cover a $400 emergency expense in cash. The oft-cited benchmark was in line with the 63% in the 2019 survey results and 61% in 2018, although the figures diverged for those who had lost jobs amid the pandemic. Two-thirds of those with no job loss or hours reduction could cover the $400 expense, while only 46% of those laid off or given fewer hours agreed. Read the survey report.

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