Economy

Americans See Little Hope of Finding a Quality Job

by Dennis Jacobe, Chief Economist

Regional job conditions slightly better than earlier this year but remain far below a year ago

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup finds 10% of Americans feeling that now is a "good time" to find a quality job, reflecting no improvement since February, and less than the 33% who held similar views as the recession began in January 2008 and the 14% recorded as the financial crisis hit the economy in full force last October.

2008-2009 Trend: Yes, Now Is a Good Time to Find a Quality Job

National job-creation trends, according to Gallup's Job Creation Index -- a separate measure based on U.S. employees' self-reports of job conditions at their places of work -- confirm Americans' perceptions that this is not a good time to be looking for work.

Job Creation Index, Nationwide, 2008-2009

Reports of company hiring and firing decisions have improved in every region except the South compared to earlier this year, but are still much worse than a year ago.

East: Improvement Since April

Job-market conditions in the East have improved since April, with Gallup's Job Creation Index improving from -7 that month to -2 in May, and ending September at -1. Hiring remains anemic, with 24% of workers reporting that their employers are hiring new employees and expanding the size of their workforces while 25% say their companies are letting people go. Although the Index in the East has improved during 2009, September's results are far worse than the 2008 readings of +14 in September and +25 in January.

Job Creation Index -- East, 2008 vs. 2009

Midwest: Best Showing Since November 2008

Midwest job-market conditions since March have improved the most of any region, with Gallup's Job Creation Index at +1 for September -- its highest level since November 2008. Twenty-four percent of workers report that their companies are hiring new employees while 23% say their companies are letting people go. "Cash for clunkers" and an improved U.S. exporting environment seem to have led to increased hiring and a better employment picture in this part of the country.

Job Creation Index -- Midwest, 2008 vs. 2009

South: Deterioration in Job Market in September

Job-market conditions have deteriorated in the South in September, as Gallup's Job Creation Index fell back to +1 -- down from +4 in each of the previous two months. Employee-reported hiring is at 25% -- down from 27% in August. At the same time, 24% say their employers are letting people go -- up slightly from 23% in August. Growing oil and gas inventories during recent months may be slowing job growth in this part of the country.

Job Creation Index -- South, 2008 vs. 2009

West: Decrease in Layoffs Numbers Produces Uptick

The job situation is getting better in the West, with Gallup's Job Creation Index improving to -2 in September -- much better than the -7 of August. Improving job-market conditions are primarily due to a sharp drop in the "letting go" percentage -- down to 25% in September from 30% the prior month. Still, hiring remains weak, as 23% of workers are reporting that their employers are hiring. The falling dollar and increasing exports seem to have slowed the deterioration of the job market in the West as the pace of layoffs has declined.

Job Creation Index -- West, 2008 vs. 2009

Commentary

Gallup's monitoring of the U.S. job market suggests that the increasing talk in the nation's capital aimed at finding a way to stimulate job growth is fully justified. Gallup's modeling suggests the unemployment rate for October could hit 9.9% when reported next month, and it seems likely that 10% could be reached before year's end. The psychological and political impact of a 10% unemployment rate nationwide could be dramatic. This is particularly true when combined with the recent Federal Reserve report suggesting the unemployment rate will remain above 8% well into 2011.

The potential political fallout of the current jobs situation is further heightened by increasing recognition that the combination of underemployed and unemployed represents a much higher percentage of the U.S. population -- one in six Americans, according to government reports -- and even more, according to Gallup's estimates. In this regard, Gallup's modeling suggests that jobs as measured by Gallup's Job Creation Index are more of a coincident or leading indicator of future consumer spending than the lagging indicator often associated with the unemployment rate. That is, job creation tends to be somewhat predictive of consumer spending one to two months in the future.

Regardless, job-market conditions across the U.S. are a little better than they were six months ago, but remain far worse than they were during the first year of the recession. Another jobless recovery -- no matter its overall shape -- is the last thing Americans need after the worst recession since the Great Depression.

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Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,013 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 1-4, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error is ±4 percentage points.

For Gallup Poll Daily tracking, Gallup interviews approximately 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, each day. The Gallup consumer spending results are based on random half-samples of approximately 500 national adults, aged 18 and older, each day. The Gallup Job Creation Index results are based on a random half sample of approximately 250 current full- and part-time employees each day.

Regional results for September are based on Gallup Poll Daily tracking interviews totaling more than 1,500 in all regions. For the total regional samples of these surveys, 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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