Nearly Four In Ten American Workers Are Living Paycheck To Paycheck Each Week

More than four years since the economy shifted from recession to recovery, 36 percent of U.S. workers always or usually live paycheck to paycheck according to a survey released Wednesday by Another 40 percent say they sometimes do.

The figures are down from their 2008 highs and paint a rosier picture than a separate poll from June that defined check to check living differently. That survey had reported that three out of four Americans don’t have enough saved to survive for six months should they lose their jobs, and that 27 percent have no savings whatsoever. The survey asked respondents directly if they live check to check, producing the lower percentage.

The stress induced by constantly fretting over making ends meet has the same effect on the brain as constantly pulling all-nighters and can knock 13 percent off a person’s IQ according to a study released earlier this summer.


The press release for Wednesday’s findings stresses the slight improvement over previous CareerBuilder-commissioned surveys. In 2012, 38 percent of respondents reported living check to check, and CareerBuilder’s Rosemary Haefner calls that improvement “a sign that job security and spending power may be on the rise.” But direct data on the state of American worker earnings gives little indication of such improvement. Workers are making less than they did at the end of the financial crisis, in part because high unemployment allows employers to press more productivity out of their workforce without raising wages.

While workers have not yet bounced back from the financial crisis, bosses and corporations have. The ratio of CEO pay to worker pay hit 273-to-1 in the most recent figures. Bank profits are back to record highs five years on from the Wall Street collapse. Taxpayers continue to subsidize executive compensation, and executive compensation continues to be disconnected from actual executive performance.