Most Americans feel they are falling behind

cost of living falling behind

Forget getting ahead. Most Americans say their income isn't even keeping up with the cost of living.

Some 55% say they are falling behind, according to a new Pew Research Center study. That's the case even though most of those polled feel the economy is recovering.

The report supports numerous other studies that show Americans are still feeling financially stressed despite the fact that companies are hiring, unemployment is falling and the economy is growing.

The main reason is that income has stagnated for years: Median income, at $51,939 is roughly where it was in 1995 after inflation.

Older Americans, lower-income folks and those with only a high school diploma feel the most left behind, Pew found. Republicans are also much more likely to say they can't keep up with costs.

Even those at the top of the income ladder, earning more than $100,000, have issues. Only one-fifth feel they are getting ahead, and about half feel they are just staying even.

Related: Don't expect a big raise in 2015

cost of living job

Even though the unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level since mid-2008, Americans are still finding it challenging to land a job.

That's particularly true among those age 50 and older and those who never went to college.

One glimmer of good news: The overall share of respondents saying plenty of jobs are available is at its highest level since late 2007, just before the Great Recession began.

Related: 2014 was America's best year of job growth since 1999

cost of living economic conditions

Not surprisingly, many Americans feel the economy is just meh.

Only a scant 16% say the economic recovery is strong, while 66% feel things are getting better but growth is not hot.

In a year, half of those surveyed feel economic conditions will be the same...but the share who think things will be better has risen to 31%, the strongest reading in two years.

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