Americans are worried. Fourteen million people are unemployed. Wages are flat. And there's concern about a double dip recession. But for many Americans, it feels like the last recession never ended.
And many economists don't expect a real turnaround anytime soon. They call it "The New Normal" or "The Great Stagnation."
The country has always come back from hard times. Is this time different?
Next month — a year out from the 2012 election — NPR will hit the road to see what Americans have to say. We'll visit small towns and big cities around the country to hear from people about their experiences in this economy. We'll talk to them about jobs and joblessness, money, raising children during uncertain times, running a business, and more.
Correspondents Richard Gonzales and Debbie Elliott will report from across the country, visiting places and talking with Americans we don't often hear from.
We're asking our audience to help. Tell us what stories you want to hear and where you think we ought to go. As the series unfolds, you can follow @NPRhardtimes on Twitter.