8 People Sitting on Benches, Talking About Recession

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By Julia Rothman and Shaina Feinberg

Aug. 12, 2022, 5:00 a.m. ET

ImageInflation got better last month but is still near a 40-year-high. The job market is hot. And official data is sending conflicting signals about whether we’re in a recession. It’s hard to know how to think about the economy right now. During a recent weekday lunch-hour in Madison Square Park, we spoke with eight people — half who are experiencing their first economic downturn as working-age adults, and half who have gone through this before — about this weird economic moment.“It’s possible that we’re heading in the direction of a recession. For someone my age, it’s a good point to start investing. I look at it as a positive. But I have noticed my Chipotle bowl has gone up a lot in price — by about $5. Now I only get it once a week or every other week.” —Benjamin Wishinsky, 19, college student“I live on Social Security and it doesn’t allow for a recession. I think the government could provide more affordable housing. I live with someone because I can’t afford an apartment. When they say they’re building affordable housing — $2,000 a month is not affordable housing!” —Katara McCoy, 71, retired“I don’t know what defines a recession. But I think wages are not appropriate for the inflation that is happening. My rent went up $600 and my salary didn’t increase. And I think student loan payments are coming back. Everyday I think, ‘Is that in my budget?’ ” —Esha Chebolu, 28, resident physician“I’m not expecting a recession imminently. But inflation is a real concern. I was talking to several friends and we expect the Social Security Administration to come through for us at the end of the year — that’s when you get your figures for next year.” —John Reilly, 79, retired“People keep telling me we’re in a recession. I didn’t grow up in a household that discussed the economy — my parents are from Jamaica and they didn’t discuss things like that. So when people talk about the recession, it kind of goes in one ear and out the other.” —Allius Barnes, 23, actor“When I talk to my friends, they are looking for part-time work, trying to save money and going out less. Because of the recession, I found a second job. It’s partly to distract my mind. I work in a gelato store on the weekends.” —Luz Camilo, 54, behavioral coach and retail associate“I just graduated in May. I’m a Covid baby. I feel like I didn’t really finish with college, because I spent so little time on campus. Now I’m supposed to get a 9-to-5 job. But everyone’s trying to find a job — even people who graduated in 2020! That’s what Covid has done to my chances of finding a job.” —Gabrielle Kuker, 22, part-time media engagement manager“I have always wanted to make sure she had financial literacy, so I don’t shield her from these things. It helps me to remember it’s just the ebbs and flows of the normal economy. Now feels much scarier than 2008 — the backdrop of the recession is against so much: social injustice, Covid, monkeypox, war and a whole generation of kids who are ambivalent about entering the work force.” — Cynthia Kuker, 66, freelance creative director and writer

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