Key Findings:

  • The latest KFF Health Tracking Poll finds just over half of the February workforce (35% of all adults) say they either have lost their job (26%), had hours reduced (21%), taken a pay cut (13%) or been furloughed (7%) as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. This includes three-fourths (76%) of those who were employed part-time, and about two-thirds of hourly or contract workers (68%), and workers from lower-income households (65% of those earning less than $40,000 annually).
  • Four in ten (42%) of all adults say that either they or their spouse or partner experienced a job loss or a cut in salary or hours due to the coronavirus. Among this group, most say the loss of income is either a “major problem” (41%) or “minor problem” (32%) for their household. The loss of income is a bigger problem for those in lower-income households with most of those earning less than $40,000 annually (58%) saying the loss of income is a “major problem” for their household.
  • Overall, three in ten adults (29%) say they have fallen behind in paying bills or had problems affording household expenses like food or health insurance coverage since February due to the coronavirus outbreak. This rises to about four in ten among younger adults ages 18-29, those with household incomes of $40,000 or less annually, and Hispanic adults. More than half (56%) of Black adults say they have had problems paying these bills in the last two months specifically because of coronavirus. Nearly half (46%) of those who had an income loss due to coronavirus say they have had difficulty paying bills or affording household expenses since the outbreak.
  • Many of the potential impacts of the loss of a job have not yet been fully realized by those affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Most say they have not yet applied for unemployment benefits (69%), and that they think that they will get their previous job or salary back within six months (83%). Less than half of those who lost their job or were laid off say their former place of employment is still open for business (39%) while most say it is closed temporarily (56%). Only 2% say their former place of employment has closed permanently.
  • Over half of U.S. adults (56%) report that worry or stress related to the coronavirus outbreak has caused them to experience at least one negative effect on their mental health and wellbeing, such as problems with sleeping or eating, increased alcohol use, or worsening chronic conditions. Stress and worry around the coronavirus also seems to be affecting larger shares of frontline health care workers and their families (64%) as well as those who experienced an income loss (65%).

The Economic Impact of Coronavirus on U.S. Families

Many U.S. adults say they have had difficulty paying household expenses because of the coronavirus outbreak. About one in five say they have fallen behind in paying credit card or other bills (21%), while one in seven have had problems paying their utilities (16%), fallen behind in paying their rent or mortgage (15%), or had problems paying for food (14%) as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. An additional one in ten say they have had problems affording their health coverage (7%) or their prescription medications (5%).

Figure 1: Significant Shares Say They Have Had Difficulty Paying Bills, Affording Household Expenses Due To Coronavirus Outbreak

Overall, three in ten adults say they have fallen behind in paying bills or had problems affording household expenses like food or health insurance coverage since February due to the coronavirus outbreak. This rises to four in ten among younger adults (18-29), those with household incomes of $40,000 or less annually, and Hispanic adults. More than half (57%) of Black adults say they have had problems paying these bills in the last two months.

Figure 2: Three In Ten Have Fallen Behind Paying Bills Or Had Problems Affording Health Insurance Or Other Household Expenses

Prior to the outbreak of coronavirus and the closing of non-essential businesses across the U.S., the February 2020 KFF Health Tracking Poll found about half of adults (52%) said they could pay a $500 unexpected bill in full at the time of service. Now, 2 months later, the share who say they could pay this bill in full at time of service is down 6 percentage points to 46%, with one in five (21%) now saying they would not be able to pay the bill at all and 28% saying they would put it on a credit card and pay it off over time or borrow money to cover the costs. Additionally, the share who say they wouldn’t be able to pay the bill at all has increased 6 percentage points over the past two months.

Figure 3: Fewer Now Report Being Able To Pay $500 Medical Bill

Large Shares Report Loss of Job or Wages

The U.S. Labor Department reported on April 23rd that more than 26 million Americans have filed unemployment claims in the past four weeks, marking the greatest increase in unemployment in this century.1 The latest KFF Health Tracking Poll finds just over half (55%) adults who were employed as of February 1, 2020 (63% of total) say they either have lost their job (26%), had hours reduced (21%), taken a pay cut (13%) or been furloughed (7%) as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. This equates to more than one-third (35%) of all U.S. adults who say they have lost their jobs or had a reduction in hours or pay as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Figure 4: Over Half Of February Workforce—Third Of All Adults—Report Loss Of Job, Hours Reduced, Or Pay Cuts Because Of Coronavirus

Three-fourths (76%) of those who were employed part-time as of February 1st report either having their hours reduced, a pay cut, or a job loss because of the coronavirus outbreak, compared to 52% of those were employed full-time. Twice as many hourly or contract workers report loss of a job or income related to coronavirus compared to salaried workers (68% vs. 30%). Workers from lower-income households are also more likely to report having an employment-related loss due to coronavirus compared to households earning $90,000 or more annually.

Table 1: Many Of Those Who Were Employed As February 1 Now Report Employment-Related Loss Related To Coronavirus
Total Employed
As Of Feb. 1
(66% of all adults)
Hours
Compensation
Household income
Full-time
Part-time
Salary
Hourly/By the job
<$40K
$40 to <$90K
$90K+
Percent who say they …
Had hours reduced 21% 20% 26% 13% 25% 23% 23% 17%
Lost job 26 23 41 9 34 31 30 13
Had to take a pay cut 13 13 15 9 15 13 14 14
Been placed on furloughed 7 6 8 3 8 10 5 3
Any of the above 55 52 76 30 68 65 62 38
NOTE: Individuals could say yes to both taken a pay cut or had hours reduced.

In addition to those who personally experienced a coronavirus-related job or income loss, 16% say they have a spouse or partner who has lost their job, had hours reduced, took pay cut, or been furloughed. In total, 42% of all U.S. adults say they or their spouse or partner has had their income or employment impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.2

Figure 5: Four In Ten Say They Or Their Spouse/Partner Has Experienced Loss of Job Or Pay Cut Due To Coronavirus Outbreak

At least four in ten across most demographic groups, including more than half of Hispanic adults (56%), between the ages of 30 and 49 (53%), and those with household incomes between $40,000 and $89,999 (51%), report that either they or their spouse/partner have either lost their job, had hours reduced, took a pay cut, or have been furloughed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. A smaller share of older adults, 65 and older, report a loss of employment-related income (18%).

Figure 6: Four In Ten Adults Say They Or Their Spouse Have Loss Job Or Had Their Pay Cut Due To Coronavirus Outbreak

Three in four (74%) of those who have experienced a loss of income (either themselves or a spouse) say it is a problem for their household including four in ten (41%) who say the loss of income is a “major problem” for their household. An additional one-third (32%) say the loss of income is a “minor problem.” About one-fourth say the loss of income is “not a problem” for their household.

Figure 7: Three-Fourths Say Loss Of Income Is A Problem

The loss of employment is a major problem for the lowest income households (less than $40,000 annual income), but a significant share of those living in households earning $40,000 to $89,999 also report the loss of income will be a problem for their household. Among those who say their household experienced a loss of job or income, six in ten (58%) of those earning less than $40,000 annually say the loss of income is a “major problem,” as do 39% of those earning between $40,000 and $89,999.

Figure 8: Those In Lower-Income Households Experiencing Job Or Income Loss More Likely To Say It Has Caused Problems

Nearly half (46%) of those who had an income loss due to coronavirus say they have had difficulty paying bills or affording household expenses since the outbreak (compared to three in ten among the public overall).

Figure 9: Nearly Half Of Those Who Have Had Their Income Impacted By Coronavirus Say They Have Experienced The Following

Most Who Have Experienced Employment Loss Say They Expect To Get Their Jobs Back

Among those who had lost their job or had their pay reduced as a result of the coronavirus (35% of the total population), eight in ten (83%) say they expect to be either hired back, get their previous salary or hours back in the next six months. This includes 86% of those who had a job loss or were furloughed who say they expect to be hired back and 81% of those who had a pay cut or their hours reduced who say they expect to get their previous salary or hours back in the next six months.

Figure 10: Most Of Those Who Have Had Job Impacted By Coronavirus Expect To Get Previous Employment Back Within Six Months

Less than half of those who lost their job or were laid off say their former place of employment is still open for business (39%) while most say it is closed temporarily (56%). Only 2% say their former place of employment has closed permanently.

The Uncertain Future

There are significant disagreements among policymakers and public health officials on when the U.S. economy will open back up. Some states are re-opening non-essential businesses in the coming weeks while other states warn it may be weeks or months until shelter-in-place restrictions are loosened and businesses can open up. The latest KFF Health Tracking Poll finds many Americans have already experienced an impact on either their own employment or their household income due to coronavirus. But it is also clear that many are unsure of how long this may last. About half of those who lost their job entirely say they have applied for unemployment benefits but smaller shares of those who have either been furloughed or had salary or hours reduced say the same. Additionally, only four in ten (37%) of households earning less than $40,000 annually say they have applied for these benefits. And while only 2% of those who lost their job know their businesses is closed permanently, it is unclear on what share of businesses will be able to re-open and re-hire their former employees in the next six months.

The Impacts of Coronavirus on Health Insurance Coverage, Mental Health, and Wellbeing

Changes in employment status could have serious implications for access to health insurance coverage for adults in the U.S. The latest KFF Health Tracking Poll finds that among those who lost a job or had a reduction in salary or hours (either themselves or a spouse), most report no change in their health insurance status at this point.

About eight in ten of those who say they or their spouse lost a job or were laid off (77%) or had hours or income reduced (82%) say they are still currently insured. Few (9% and 2%, respectively) say they are newly insured because they lost employer-sponsored coverage or another form of coverage. It is unclear whether those who so far have remained insured in the face of job loss will be able to retain their coverage, or whether the share losing such coverage may rise over the course of the outbreak.

Table 2: Health Insurance Coverage Among Those Who Say They Or Their Spouse/Partner Experienced A Loss Of Employment
Percent who say they are: Self or spouse experienced any type of income or job loss (42% of total) Self or spouse lost a job or were laid off (23% of total) Self or spouse furloughed or had hours or income reduced (23% of total)
Currently insured 79% 77% 82%
Currently uninsured (NET) 19 22 15
Newly uninsured (lost ESI or other coverage) 6 9 2
Uninsured before loss of job or income 13 13 13
The Impact On mental health and wellbeing

Adults in the U.S. report that worry and stress related to the coronavirus outbreak is affecting their mental health and wellbeing in various ways. Four in ten say such worry or stress has led to problems with their sleep, while one-third say they either have had a poor appetite or have been over-eating. Some also say worry or stress related to the coronavirus outbreak has caused them to experience frequent headaches or stomachaches (18%), difficulty controlling their temper (15%), or increasing their alcohol or drug use (13%). About one in ten (9%) say coronavirus-related stress has led to worsening chronic health conditions. Over half of U.S. adults (56%) report that worry or stress related to the coronavirus outbreak has affected them in at least one of these ways.

Figure 11: Majority Say Worry Or Stress Related To Coronavirus Has Had Adverse Effects On Health Or Wellbeing

Majorities across most demographic groups including race and ethnicity, gender, and income report that worry or stress related to coronavirus has caused adverse effects on their mental health or wellbeing in the past two months. To see more on the implications of COVID-19 for mental health, see this KFF analysis.

Figure 12: Majorities Across Most Groups Report Worry Or Stress Related To Coronavirus Outbreak Has Impacted Mental Health

The coronavirus outbreak’s impact on mental health and wellbeing also seems to be affecting large shares of frontline health care workers and their families, as well as those who experienced a loss of employment income. About two-thirds of those living in a household with a health care worker (64%) and a similar share of those who have lost their job or income (65%) say that worry or stress related to the coronavirus outbreak has caused them to experience at least one adverse effect on their mental health or wellbeing in the past two months.

Figure 13: Coronavirus-Related Negative Health Impacts Highest Among Households With Health Care Workers Or Loss Of Employment

Since the coronavirus outbreak one in five (19%) say they have needed but been unable to get some type of medical care or prescription medications. This includes 16% who say they were unable to get medical care for conditions or concerns unrelated to coronavirus, 4% who say they were unable to get prescription medications, and 3% who say they were unable to get needed mental health services.

Figure 14: One In Five Say They Have Not Been Able To Get Medical Care, Prescriptions, Or Mental Health Services

Endnotes

1 –  “Jobless claims: Another 4.427 million Americans file for unemployment beenfits.” Yahoo! Finance (April 23, 2020). https://finance.yahoo.com/news/coronavirus-covid-weekly-initial-jobless-claims-april-18-165759755.html

2 – This is consistent with the KFF Early April Health Tracking Poll that found four in ten (39%) adults reporting they had already either lost their job, lost income, or had their hours reduced without pay because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Social Distancing and Contact Tracing Methodology