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Nearly eight months into the pandemic, Americans’ concerns about COVID-19 and the U.S. economy persist. According to LIMRA’s latest Consumer Sentiment study, fielded in early October, nearly 3 in 5 consumers report being “very” or “extremely concerned” about the virus and half report this level of concern regarding the economy.

“We continue to see a difference in the level of concern about the pandemic and the economy based on political leaning,” said Alison Salka, Ph.D., senior vice president and head of LIMRA Research. “Consumers who identify as liberal are much more likely to express higher levels of concern than those who identify as conservative. Given this dichotomy, we expect it will be challenging for policy makers and leaders to implement policies that are welcomed by both sides of the political spectrum.”

While concerns have dropped since March, 55% of Americans still say they are very or extremely concerned about the federal government’s ability to manage the crisis and 54% worry about COVID-19’s impact on the economy. To a lesser degree, Americans convey similar concerns about the ability of the health care system to manage the influx of patients and their local government’s ability to manage the crisis (46% and 45% respectively).

October’s results suggest that more consumers are feeling the negative impacts of the recession today than in July. Four in 10 non-retirees say the economic downturn has strongly impacted their ability to save for retirement, up from 37% in July. More American workers feel the recession is strongly impacting their job security than it did in July (41% versus 33%) and more people are worried about maintaining their housing (28% versus 26%).

“As the country is experiencing the next wave of COVID-19 infections, more people may be recognizing that the pandemic and current economic conditions are going to persist well into 2021,” Salka commented. “The financial hardships many families are facing will get harder as the recession continues.”

COVID-19 and the need for life insurance

COVID-19 continues to raise awareness about the importance of life insurance. In October, 57% of Americans said they feel a heightened need for life insurance. Yet, the study finds 1 in 5 say the recession has made it difficult for them to purchase new life insurance — up 5 percentage points from July. More than a quarter of those with insurance (26%) say the recession is making is difficult to pay for their existing coverage. This is 7 percentage points higher than in July.

Confidence in life insurers and agents at all-time high

A record number of Americans (41%) say they have “extreme” or “quite a bit” of confidence in life insurers. Confidence in financial professionals also hit a new high, with 33% of consumers saying they have this level of confidence in insurance agents and brokers and 37% when it comes to financial advisors.

“Other research we have done throughout the pandemic has shown how much insurers and financial professionals have done to adapt and offer digital solutions to help their customers virtually when they couldn’t meet face-to-face,” said Salka. “I think these efforts combined with the growing understanding of the value of life insurance, have increased consumers’ awareness of our industry and the people who work in it.”

First initiated in early 2008 to gauge consumer opinion of the economy and the financial services industry, LIMRA’s Consumer Sentiment Survey has continued to monitor Americans’ sentiment about the economy and confidence in industries. The latest results are based on responses from 3,033 Americans ages 18+.