Americans’ views of job availability among most positive in last 15 years
Americans are now more positive about the job opportunities available to them than they have been since the economic meltdown, when views of the job market took a nosedive. Today’s more upbeat views rank among some of the best assessments of the job market in Pew Research Center surveys dating back 15 years.
In a new Pew Research Center survey on issues and the state of the 2016 campaign, 44% say there are plenty of jobs available in their community, while slightly more (51%) say jobs are difficult to find. That’s much more optimistic than March 2010 ratings, when evaluations of job availability bottomed out, with 85% saying jobs in their community were difficult to find. Back then, just 10% said there were plenty of jobs available. As recently as last January, the share who said jobs were hard to find outweighed the share who said there were plenty available by a 57%-36% margin.
These findings come as the Bureau of Labor Statistics report for March showed that employers had added 215,000 jobs. The unemployment rate stood at 5%.
The rebound in ratings of the job market puts them back around where they were in November 2007, just before the start of the recession, when 41% said plenty of jobs were available and 48% said they were difficult to find. The only time in the past 15 years when ratings of the job situation were more positive than they are now was in June 2001, when the unemployment rate stood at 4.5%. At that time, about as many said jobs were plentiful in their community (42%) as said they were difficult to find (44%). (Pew Research Center trends do not reach back to the late 1990s, a period of economic expansion and wage growth.)
There are modest differences in views of the job market among voters with different presidential candidate preferences. Among Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters, 53% of Kasich supporters say plenty of jobs are available in their community, compared with 46% of Cruz supporters and 39% of Trump supporters. On the Democratic side, 44% of Clinton supporters and 42% of Sanders supporters say there are plenty of jobs available.
Across demographic groups, those with higher levels of education and household income express some of the most positive assessments of the job market. About six-in-ten (58%) of those with family incomes of $100,000 a year or more say there are plenty of jobs available. This compares with 48% of those earning $75,000-$99,999 and 43% of those earning $30,000-$74,999. Among those earning less than $30,000 a year, just 35% say there are plenty of jobs available.
Most postgraduates (55%) and half of college graduates (50%) say jobs are readily available in their communities; fewer of those with some college experience (43%) or no college experience (38%) say the same.
While partisans offer significantly different views of national economic conditions, there is hardly any difference in views of local job availability: 49% of Republicans and 45% of Democrats say there are plenty of jobs available in their community.
Even as public impressions of job availability have improved, concerns about the cost of living remain widespread. A December 2015 survey found that 49% of Americans said they felt they were falling behind the cost of living, while 42% said they were staying about even; only 7% said they thought their family income was going up faster than the cost of living.
Alec Tyson is a senior researcher focusing on U.S. politics and policy at Pew Research Center.