What a difference a decade makes: U.S. workers report across-the-board decline in job satisfaction

American workers are significantly less satisfied with their jobs, job security, work-family balance, income, health care and retirement options than they were 10 years ago, according to a national survey newly released by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

In both the November 2009 and 1999 surveys, the answers to identical questions about eight aspects of work dropped across the board. Happiness with the number of hours worked (59% to 37%) and job security (59% to 41%) decreased the most dramatically. Additionally, there were declines of about 10 percentage points in overall job satisfaction, and satisfaction with income, health coverage, retirement and pensions, and the ability to balance work and family life.

“From 9/11 to surges in oil prices, to bank failures to shocks on Wall Street and in the housing market, the American worker has had a rough decade,” said study Co-Director and Professor Cliff Zukin. “They have watched the unpleasant economic realities of the past 10 years - for which they bear little personal responsibility - touch their lives in tangible and harmful ways. Taken as a whole, workers have little confidence in the American economy at the turn of a new decade.”

The survey’s findings obviously reflect the dramatic changes that have occurred in the past decade. American workers in 1999 were brimming with confidence: seven in 10 said it was a good time to find a quality job and almost two-thirds said they could get as good or a better job if they wanted or needed to do so. 

Not surprisingly, today’s workers have a much grimmer perspective: The percentage of workers “very concerned” about the unemployment rate skyrocketed from 18% in 1999 to a staggering 63% today. Only one in 10 say it is a good time to find a job, while just two in 10 feel confident they could find a new job as good or better than the one they now have.

While satisfaction declined among all groups for each of the eight items, there are some noteworthy differences:
  • Overall job satisfaction decreased more among those who have attended at least some college than it did among those with only a high school education.
  • Satisfaction with health and medical benefits dropped more sharply among women (a 19 percentage point decline) than among men (5 points).
  • Satisfaction with opportunities for education or training declined more for those under 40 years of age than for those older.

U.S. closes 2009 with larger-than-expected job loss

The U.S. economy made 2009 the worst year of employment losses since the Great Depression with an unexpectedly large drop of 85,000 jobs in December, according to government data released Friday. 

Although December's unemployment rate remained unchanged at 10%, it was only because scores of Americans, including many discouraged about being able to land a new job, stopped looking. By the government's definition, jobless Americans no longer actively looking for new work are not counted as "unemployed."

"The increased number of discouraged workers is masking the true extent of joblessness," Anne Kim, economic program director at Third Way, a Washington-based liberal policy think tank, told the Los Angeles Times.

Nationally, analysts had expected the economy to lose just 8,000 jobs in December. The loss of 85,000 was a setback after November, when, according to revised figures released Friday, the economy actually added 4,000 jobs, the first gains in nearly two years. "The labor market is getting better, but it is still a long way from being healthy again," Paul Ashworth, economist at Capital Economics Ltd., told the Associated Press.

Despite all of the grim news released this week, some economists said a recent trend of improvement remains in place. The economy lost an average of nearly 700,000 jobs in the first three months of last year, a figure that dropped to 69,000 in the fourth quarter.

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One in five U.S. workers plans to changes jobs in 2010, new survey says

Nearly one-in-five workers (19%) plan to leave their current job this year and find a new one, and another 9% said they'll switch jobs in 2011, according to results of a new CareerBuilder survey released Thursday.

Many employers cut or froze salaries, bonuses and benefits in 2009, practices that have led employees to feel less loyal than in the past.

Almost one in eight workers (12%) whose companies cut benefits or perks in 2009 said they will leave their jobs within six months, while 27% who did not receive a raise or promotion in 2009 said they will leave their current positions in less than a year if they do not receive either. Nearly one in five (18%) workers whose pay was cut in the past year said they will stay at their jobs no longer than six more months.

Factors workers reported influence job satisfaction and company loyalty are:

  • Pay - 57% did not receive a raise last year, up from 35% in 2008. Of those who received raises, 28% were given an increase of 3% or less. Seventy-one percent did not receive bonuses.To help make ends meet, 8% took on a second job during the year, while 19% plan to find a second job in 2010 to supplement their primary paycheck.

  • Leadership shortcomings - 23% rate their corporate leaders as poor or very poor. Workers main concerns were: an inability to address employee morale (35%); not enough transparency (30%); and major changes being made without warning (28%).

  • Career advancement - 28% are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with career advancement opportunities provided by their current employers. Of workers who did not receive a promotion in 2009, 90% are dissastisfied with their jobs, while almost one-quarter feel they were overlooked.

  • Switching industries - 20% said they plan to switch careers or fields in the next two years. Top reasons include: wanting to pursue a more interesting line of work (67%), higher pay (54%), more career advancement (41%) and increased stability (36%).

  • Work/life balance - Nearly one-quarter (23%) are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their work/life balance, up from 18% last year.

    U.S. job satisfaction lower than in two decades, new survey finds

    Americans across all ages and incomes continue to grow increasingly unhappy with their jobs, extending a 22-year decline documented in an annual survey sponsored by non-profit business research and policy think tank The Conference Board that was released Thursday. 

    The results found that employee satisfaction has dropped more than 15 percentage points, to 45%, since 1987, the first year the survey was conducted.

    "Through both economic boom and bust during the past two decades, our job satisfaction numbers have shown a consistent downward trend," Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's Consumer Research Center, said in a news release. "While one in 10 Americans is now unemployed, their working compatriots of all ages and incomes continue to grow increasingly unhappy."

    Almost one-quarter of respondents also reported that they don’t expect to be in their current job in a year, which confirms the findings of a survey conducted at the end of last year by online job search site CareerBuilder.com.

    Fewer Americans are satisfied with every aspect of their work and no age group was immune: Baby Boomers to members of Generation Y all showed declining job satisfaction, according to the survey. The drop in job satisfaction also was evident in all other categories the survey measured, from interest in work (down 18.9 percentage points) to job security (down 17.5 percentage points). This was also true across the four "key drivers" The Conference Board has concluded are necessary for a high level of "employee engagement:" job design, organizational health, managerial quality and extrinsic rewards.

    Employers should view the data as a "big red flag," John Gibbons, program director of employee engagement research and services at The Conference Board, said in the news release, because the increase in work dissatisfaction is not just a result of the widespread layoffs and other workplace cuts employees have endured in the Great Recession.