consumer outlook Is there light at the end of the tunnel for U.S. consumers? Financial distress is generally at its lowest since fall 2008, according to figures in the new Consumer Distress Index produced by CredAbility, a nonprofit credit counseling organization. However, Americans' consumer net worth continues to suffer overall, with 47 states registering high levels of distress, including one, West Virginia, that's in a state of emergency.

Mark Cole, chief operating officer of CredAbility, says that net worth is a "ticking time bomb," as many Americans over the age of 50 have less time and opportunity to recover financially from the recession. The average jobless spell for Americans over the age of 55 lasts longer, and new jobs may pay less.

The organization measures consumer distress, or the financial picture for the average American family, on an index from 0 to 100. This quarter, Americans are making some modest gains, with the overall index score at 68.1, up from 67.2 in the fourth quarter of 2010. But any score below 70 indicates financial distress. The scale measures five categories: employment, housing, credit, household budget management, and net worth.



Several factors have raised the overall score: more full-time and part-time employment, better handling of household budgets, and smart use of credit, according to the report.

One factor that could negatively affect household budgets in months to come is the price of gasoline. In the first three months of 2011, Americans spent $593 refueling their cars on average, an increase of 7.6% from the same period in 2010, according to the report.

For states in the West and Southeast, a weak housing market and high unemployment continue to make life difficult for the average household. States that have been especially hard hit by foreclosures, including Florida, Arizona and Nevada, are among the top five most distressed states.

North Dakota is the least distressed state, followed by South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska and Alaska. Cole says that these states have more stable industries and unemployment rates are lower. Strong community stability and low population sizes also have served to buffer consumers. "It's a different lifestyle," he says of states that are least distressed.

Catherine New is a reporter with the Huffington Post Media Group.

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granaryst

These articles are written by people paid for by George Soros. So, they are some of his many puppets which include our president and many in congress. They have pulled the wool over your eyes. The poverty level has almost doubled under Obama and thugs. Need more be said?

May 23 2011 at 6:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
joey

what crack are u on..........

May 23 2011 at 1:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nancyskz

To bushwasaliar..........Are you really THIS immature that you can only come up with these pathetis = to statements of no intelligence or bearing on ANYTHING important? Pehaps you should go back to school, moreover do SOME reading about what is REALLY going on in this country.

May 23 2011 at 1:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
marine1942

Everything is rosey--didn't you hear Obama is giving your 2 billion tax money to Egypt ?

May 23 2011 at 12:38 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
bhawkes328

BS

May 23 2011 at 11:39 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
scottee

this is because the federal government rewards debt...and punishes savings...via the tax code. oh yes, I forgot...what interest? maybe that's why no one is angry about the low interest rate...they don't have any savings! I want to see the free market decide interest rates, please!

May 23 2011 at 9:31 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
democracks0

You know things are really bad in the Obama economy, even Barack and Michelle are living in government subsidized housing.

May 23 2011 at 1:26 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
icemanbill23

Bushwasnotaliar....Your man Obama is an extraordinary politician and therefore by definition...an extraordinary liar!

May 23 2011 at 12:09 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
icemanbill23

Not only is Obama a Muslim at heart, now he has shown himself to be a Palistinian as well!

May 23 2011 at 12:05 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jbluhm1951

President Obama does not have an opponent to even try to beat him in 2012 except for himself, that is. He is kicking his on ____ pretty good. If he keeps this up he will beat himself before the 2012 election comes up. If he continues his melt down, or I would say, if he continues to let people know how he really feels, he will be defeated by pretty much any Republican candidate for President.

May 22 2011 at 9:51 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply