About the same number of Americans believe that jobs are plentiful as those who feel that their income is falling behind the cost of living.

Exactly half (50%) of Americans believe that there are plenty of jobs in their community, according to new research from Pew Research Center. That's the highest number of people willing to make that statement since Pew started asking that survey question back in 2001.

That optimism is tempered by the fact that 49% of Americans told Pew that their family's income is not keeping up with the cost of living. Another 40% feel that they are "staying about even," while only 9% feel that they are getting ahead.

A person works a calculator with one hand and holds a pencil in the other.

About half of Americans are worried about making ends meet. Image source: Getty Images.

A divide on jobs

It's worth noting that unemployment rates have hovered at or near record levels since Barack Obama left office. The jobless rate has continued to fall under President Donald Trump and it's hard for anyone to argue that the job market is not healthy.

Of course, the question "Are there plenty of jobs available in your community?" is one that's open to interpretation. Some may view it as asking if there are openings that remain unfilled and others may see it as really asking whether there are any good/high paying jobs available.

While 50% of Americans believe there are "plenty of jobs available," only 41% feel there are "plenty of good jobs available." That divide is starker when you look at how people responded on a partisan basis.

"While 57% of Republicans say there are plenty of 'good jobs' (little different than the share who say there are plenty of jobs), just 32% of Democrats say this," according to Pew.

The struggle to keep up

Of the 49% of Americans who feel they are struggling to keep up with the cost of living, the people who make the least money are the most-likely to be worried that they can't keep up. Two-thirds (67%) of Americans who make less than $30,000 per year say that they feel like they are falling behind. Only 33% of those making $75,000 or more annually feel the same way.

It's also worth noting that when you look at the question of whether there are plenty of jobs available in their community there's also a divide between these two income levels. Only 46% of people making $30,000 or less believe that jobs are plentiful while 65% of people making over $75,000 feel that way.

And when it comes to whether there are good jobs available only 26% of those making under $30,000 feel that there are. Over half (53%) of people making $75,000 or more believe that there are plenty of good jobs out there.

Income matters

What's clear from these results is that those who are already successful financially have a stronger view of the job market as well as their ability to keep up financially. That makes sense because lower-income workers may face constraints like transportation and child care issues that keep them from advancing or making more money even in a strong job market.

A higher-paid worker generally has more ability to move for a better job or to commute farther. And, while Americans making over $75,000 may face financial struggles, those issues likely do not involve meeting basic needs.

The challenge, even with a strong economy, is not only creating good jobs but creating them in the markets where they are needed. That's not an easy solution and it's a problem that means that even in prosperous times, not all boats rise equally.

That at least partly explains why Pew found that only 41% of Americans rate economic conditions in the country to be "excellent" or "good." Another 38% rated it as "only fair" while 20% said that economic conditions are "poor."

It's really a question of perception. If you're struggling to find a job that pays enough so you can make ends meet, you probably don't care that on a broad basis the employment picture is good. The same is true if you're doing well, see lots of opportunity, and have a little money in the bank.

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