Economy

Only 12% Believe Now Is a Good Time to Find a Quality Job

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Job-market evaluations worst in seven years

PRINCETON, NJ -- A recent Gallup Poll found just 12% of Americans saying now is "a good time to find a quality job." This continues a steady deterioration of job market perceptions over the past two years.

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In fact, Americans' current evaluations of the job market are the worst Gallup has found since it began measuring this on a monthly basis in 2001. Prior to this year, the low point for ratings of the job market came in March 2003, just before the war with Iraq began, when just 16% of Americans said it was a good time to find a quality job.

The latest figures are based on a Nov. 13-16 Gallup Poll, which was conducted before new weekly unemployment claims hit a 16-year high. But Americans' opinions about the job market have been souring for quite some time. In the early months of 2007, Americans were about as likely to say it was a good time to find a quality job as to say it was a bad time. But by the summer of 2007 -- when Americans were beginning to feel the effects of rising gas prices and concerns about the housing market were growing -- perceptions of the job market had begun to worsen.

In January and February of this year, concerns about a recession prompted the Bush administration and Congress to pass an economic stimulus package, and from January to February, the percentage of Americans describing the job market in positive terms fell from 33% to 26%. Gallup saw another notable drop this fall on the heels of the financial crisis that led to the government's $700 billion rescue bill.

Ratings of the Economy Also Dismal

Americans' ratings of the overall economy are also highly negative. In the last four days of Gallup Poll Daily tracking, at least 6 in 10 Americans have rated current economic conditions "poor," including a high of 63% in the Nov. 20-22 three-day rolling average. Since the presidential election, it has been common for poor ratings of the economy to be at or above 60%. This may reflect a reaction to the significant declines in the stock market on top of rising unemployment and concerns about the survival of venerable businesses such as General Motors and Citibank.

The average monthly economic ratings clearly show the growing pessimism about the economy's overall health over the course of the year.

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In some ways, the ratings of the current economy are catching up to the public's sense throughout this year that economic conditions were getting worse. An average of 83% of Americans have said that the economy is "getting worse" in Gallup Poll Daily tracking in 2008.

Implications

Americans' perceptions of the job market and the overall economy are overwhelmingly gloomy and are among the worst Gallup has measured since it began measuring consumer economic perceptions on a regular basis in the early 1990s. This dour economic mood will almost certainly lead to a dismal holiday shopping season for retailers, and the lack of consumer confidence has no doubt been one major factor in President-elect Barack Obama's decision to act swiftly to pass an economic stimulus package once he takes office in January.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,009 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 13-16, 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.

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