A sputtering economy, rising gas prices and other factors fueled the biggest rise in financial stress since the peak of the credit crisis in October 2008, according to the latest IBD/TIPP Poll.
The Financial-Related Stress Index shot up 10% to 59.4, the highest level in 15 months. This economic stress gauge had hit 54 a month earlier, the lowest since it began being measured in December 2007.
The overall IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index fell to 48.1 from 49.7 a month earlier and 51.3 in the prior month. Readings below 50 signal pessimism.
The U.S. economy shrank at an 0.7% annual rate in the first quarter, the Commerce Department reported while the IBD/TIPP survey took place last week. So far, Q2 growth estimates don't suggest a powerful rebound.
Meanwhile, gas prices have risen 74 cents since late January, according to the Energy Information Administration. They are still 92 cents below a year earlier.
Higher gas prices haven't stopped Americans from buying new cars or trucks — U.S. sales hit an annual rate of 17.79 million in May, the best in nearly a decade, according to automakers' results Tuesday. But other consumer spending has been lackluster this year.
"In our poll, 23% of households have at least one person looking for a full-time job," according to Raghavan Mayur, president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, IBD's polling partner. TIPP is TechnoMetrica's polling unit.
Mayur said that other stress-boosting factors include racial unrest in Baltimore, California's drought and floods in the South.
Nearly all of the demographic groups that IBD tracks showed higher financial stress, but some of the biggest increases emerged from among those aged 18-24 and 25-44.
Economic Outlook Falters
The three main components of the IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index all showed declines in the latest reading.
The Six-Month Economic Outlook Index fell 5% to 45.3, the lowest since last November.
The Personal Financial Outlook Index fell 1% to 57.7 — a high number, but off from the best levels since October 2012.
The Confidence in Federal Economic Policies gauge sank 4.4% to 41.2, the lowest reading this year.
The IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership Index fell 0.9% to 46.5, the second straight modest decline. The gauge has held below 50 since March 2013.
The IBD/TIPP Poll of 856 adults was conducted from May 26 to May 31.