Economic growth in 2011 is likely to exceed 3 percent, and perhaps even hit 4 percent. That would be the best performance in more than a decade. Workers who held onto their jobs during the Great Recession can finally exhale, with growing confidence that their job security is improving. Companies are grudgingly starting to hire back a few of the unemployed. And the latest stimulus and tax-cut plan out of Washington will put cash into practically every taxpayer’s pocket, just to make sure the economy keeps marching forward.
Yet the economic landscape in the aftermath of the Great Recession is littered with wreckage. Battered industries like construction and real estate won’t return to normal for years. A few states, including California and Illinois, are nearly insolvent, with tax hikes and service cuts the only way out. Homeowners have lost trillions of dollars’ worth of home equity, thanks to the housing bust. And the number of Americans who remain unemployed is far larger than at any time since the Great Depression.
For millions of Americans, in other words, 2011 won’t feel like a recovery at all, but like the fourth year of a painfully long recession. Here’s who is likely to feel it most.