Stealth issue is beginning to reveal itself to American voters
PRINCETON, NJ -- The percentage of Americans saying now is a "bad time" to find a quality job is up 26 percentage points from a year ago and now stands at 82% -- the highest level since Gallup began asking this question in October 2001.
Job-Market Conditions Are Not Good
Over the first three quarters of this year, the U.S. economy lost more than three-quarters of a million jobs -- giving up many of the 1.1 million jobs created in 2007. In early October, Americans' perceptions of the job market are worse than they've been at this time of year since Gallup began monitoring the issue in late 2001.
Today's 82% of Americans rating now as a bad time to find a quality job far exceeds the 56% and 54% who felt this way in October 2007 and October 2006, respectively. In fact, the current degree of pessimism about the job market is the highest level Gallup has recorded at any time over the past seven years -- the previous high was 81%, reached around the beginning of the war with Iraq, in March and August 2003.
This degree of pessimism is shared broadly across demographic groups, with 80% of men and 85% of women holding this view of the job market. And 80% or more of Americans in each region of the country have a similar job-market perspective.
Huge Increase in Republican Pessimism About Jobs
In May of this year, the largest differences in job-market perceptions were by political affiliation. Republicans were least pessimistic about current labor-market conditions, with a relatively low 57% saying it was a bad time to find a quality job. In contrast, 86% of Democrats felt this way, along with 72% of independents. By October, the party differences remained but the percentage of Republicans pessimistic about the jobs outlook surged 17 points to 74%; the percentage of Democrats increased 5 points to 91%; and the percentage of independents increased 8 points to 80%.
Earlier this year, far fewer Republicans than either Democrats or independents were pessimistic about the job-market outlook. Although differences in perspective remain, nine consecutive months of job losses and the financial crises of the past several weeks have significantly closed this gap in perceptions, with pessimism now dominating the outlook.
Further, the impact of the crisis in confidence that Gallup began detecting around mid-September is yet to be fully reflected in today's job-market perceptions.
The current lack of confidence on top of the many other challenges to the U.S. economy is creating what appears to be a traditional and fairly severe recession. In turn, this suggests that the jobs situation will continue to worsen before it begins to get better.
Although the next government report on jobs won't be released until after the November elections, the presidential candidates would do well to have a plan to deal with the potential of a sharply deteriorating post-election job market. Congress left town without addressing this seeming stealth issue, as it failed to extend unemployment insurance benefits. It would seem unwise for the candidates to avoid the issue in Tuesday night's debate.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,011 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 3-5, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.