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January 15, 2010

HR Fact Friday: Americans’ Job Satisfaction Falls to Record Low

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: , , 8:16 am

Even Americans who are lucky enough to have work in this economy are becoming more unhappy with their jobs, according to a new survey that found only 45% of Americans are satisfied with their work.

That was the lowest level ever recorded by the Conference Board research group in more than 22 years of studying the issue. In 2008, 49% of those surveyed reported satisfaction with their jobs.

The drop in workers’ happiness can be partly blamed on the worst recession since the 1930s, which has made it difficult for some people to find challenging and suitable jobs. But worker dissatisfaction has been on the rise for more than two decades.

Workers have grown steadily more unhappy for a variety of reasons:

• Fewer workers consider their jobs to be interesting.

• Incomes have not kept up with inflation.

• The soaring cost of health insurance has eaten into workers’ take-home pay.

Some other key findings of the survey:

• 43% of workers feel secure in their jobs. In 2008, 47% said they feel secure in their jobs, while 59% felt that way in 1987.

• 56% say they like their co-workers, slightly less than the 57% who said so last year but down from 68% in 1987.

• 56% say they are satisfied with their commute to work even as commute times have grown longer over the years. That compares with 54% in 2008 and 63% in 1987.

• 51% say they’re satisfied with their boss. That’s down from 55% in 2008 and around 60% two decades ago.

When the Conference Board’s first survey was conducted in 1987, most workers — 61% — said they were happy in their jobs. The survey of 5,000 households was conducted for the Conference Board by TNS, a global market research company.

One clue that may explain workers’ growing dissatisfaction: Only 51% now find their jobs interesting — another low in the survey’s 22 years. In 1987, nearly 70% said they were interested in their work.

Conference Board officials and outside economists suggested that weak wage growth helps explain why workers’ unhappiness has been rising for more than 20 years. After growing in the 1980s and 1990s, average household incomes adjusted for inflation have been shrinking since 2000.

Also, compared with 1980, three times as many workers contribute to the cost of their health insurance — and those contributions have gone up. The average employee contribution for single-coverage medical care benefits rose from $48 a month to $76 a month between 1999 and 2006.

Workers under 25 expressed the highest level of dissatisfaction. Roughly 64% of workers under 25 say they are unhappy in their jobs. The recession has been especially hard on young workers, who face fewer opportunities now and lower wages, some analysts say.

The most satisfied are those ages 25 to 34, who may see some opportunities for upward mobility as baby boomers retire. Around 47% of workers 25 to 34 say they are happy in their jobs.

Source: USA Today, Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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