Consumer anxiety about the cost of tariffs has reached its highest point in almost a year.
A survey by research company Civic Science found that, in the month of April, 71% of Americans said they are at least somewhat concerned about how recent trade policies and tariffs will impact their household expenses. That number represents a 10% increase from June 2019.
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This mounting concern comes amid growing job losses across the country, after businesses were forced to shutdown in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. According to the U.S. Labor Department, the total number of jobless claims since the outbreak began has exceeded 30 million, as of April 30, which represents roughly 18.6% of the American labor force.
In the Civic Science survey, individuals worried about the tariffs are slightly more likely to be out of work or receiving reduced pay from their employers, compared with respondents who are not at all concerned. And nearly all of those with tariff woes (95%) are troubled about the state of the overall U.S. economy.
Additionally, 59% of those with concerns about tariffs said they have reduced their household spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Over the past four years, tariffs have been a significant focus for President Donald Trump, who has promised to resurrect U.S. manufacturing by slapping steep tariffs on foreign competitors, principally China.
Last year, the president announced multiple tariff increases on imports from China, which experts said would hit consumers’ wallets. In fact, the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America estimated in May 2019 that shoppers would pay $7 billion more for shoes annually if all of the proposed tariff hikes went forward.
In a bid to boost the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Treasury Department and the Customs and Border Protection announced in mid-April that they will afford American businesses a 90-day delay in payments on a range of import tariffs. However, the partial reprieve does not cover duties on the more than $360 billion worth of Chinese goods that were taxed during the protracted financial dispute between Washington and Beijing.