WASHINGTON – The economy has added millions of jobs and pay gains have accelerated in recent years, but Americans aren’t crazy about their work.
A poll released Wednesday showed just 40% of employed Americans say they’re in good jobs, versus 44% in mediocre jobs and 16% in bad jobs. How respondents ranked the quality of their job had a strong correlation with their quality of life: Seventy-nine percent of workers in good jobs report a high quality of life, versus only a third of those in bad jobs.
The Gallup survey of 6,633 working adults to assess their current job on 10 dimensions of job quality such as benefits, pay and job security. More important aspects, as ranked by the respondent, were weighted more heavily in the final five-point score. A good job is a score of 4 or above. A bad job reflects a score at or below 3.
About two-thirds of those making $143,000 or more a year – in the top 10% of incomes – categorized their job as “good,” while less than a third of those making less than $24,000 said the same. Overall, just about half of workers are satisfied with their current pay, but this differs greatly by income. Eighty-nine percent of those in the top 10% income bracket were satisfied with their level of pay. That compares to less than half of that for those with incomes in the bottom half.
Fewer than two-thirds of respondents said their pay has increased in the last five years, further underscoring how the record-long expansion has been uneven across income levels. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has emphasized the need to sustain the economy’s growth so “that the strong job market reaches more of those left behind.”
As the labor market has tightened, companies have complained about a lack of qualified workers, and job postings currently exceed the number of unemployed Americans.
Yet no more than 37% saw an improvement in any single aspect of work besides pay over the last five years, according to the report, which was funded by the Lumina Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Omidyar Network.
About a fourth of Americans saw an improvement in their employee benefits, while only a third were enjoying their day-to-day work more.
Looking across demographics, the study found race, ethnicity and gender to be strongly correlated with job quality.
Black women were most likely to say they work in bad jobs, at 31%. White non-Hispanic men, followed by white non-Hispanic women, were least likely to be disappointed by job quality. Hispanic men and black women were the most likely to be disappointed. Asian workers, who had higher levels of income and education than white Americans, expressed lower job quality than white respondents.
The survey was conducted via mail from Feb. 8 to April 1. The main results have a margin of error of 1.9 percentage point.
“We cannot rely on the unemployment rate alone to tell us what is happening with work in America,” Jonathan Rothwell, Gallup principal economist, said in a statement released with the poll. “This survey offers a detailed look at what people value in their jobs and how they feel about their working lives, and it shows that people want more than just a job.”
Reade Pickert is a reporter for Bloomberg News.
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