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In U.S., All but the Low-Income See Job Market Mending

In U.S., All but the Low-Income See Job Market Mending

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' views about the availability of quality jobs in the U.S. improved this month, with 27% saying now is a good time to find a quality job, up from 21% in August. Although this is by one percentage point the highest since January 2008, this month's reading is similar to the 25% to 26% scores found in June and July.

Trend: Americans' Views of Whether Now Is a Good or Bad Time to Find a Quality Job

More broadly, Americans' perceptions of the U.S. job market have tended to be more positive each month this year than during most months of 2012, and compared with 2009 through 2011, when the percentage saying it is a good time was consistently below 20%.

The new results are based on Gallup's annual Governance survey, conducted Sept. 5-8, 2013.

Young Adults and Democrats the Most Upbeat on Jobs

There is fairly modest variation across most demographic and political subgroups in the percentages saying now is a good time to find a quality job. Young adults aged 18 to 29 and Democrats, as well as Hispanics and blacks -- both of which are predominantly Democratic groups -- are the most optimistic. Democrats' relative optimism fits within a larger pattern whereby members of the president's party are the most upbeat about the nation's economy. Even so, majorities of all political, racial, and ethnic groups are more negative than positive on this question.

Consistent with prior months, Republicans and seniors are the least likely of all major subgroups to believe the job market is good.

Perceptions of Market for Finding a Good Job in the U.S., September 2013

Income Gap Widens as Middle- and Upper-Income Americans Grow More Positive

Upper-income Americans' optimism about the availability of good jobs increased nine percentage points to 33% in September. Middle-income Americans' optimism is also at one of the highest levels of the year. At the same time, lower-income Americans' optimism has faded, with 19% saying now is a good time to find a quality job -- unchanged from August but down from 26% in July, and 30% in June.

As a result, there is now a relatively wide gap separating lower-income Americans' views about jobs from the views of those in higher-income brackets, markedly different from earlier this year when the three groups' views were closer.

Trend: Perceptions That Now Is a Good Time to Find a Quality Job, by Household Income

These findings are in line with a recent Associated Press report that found the employment gap among U.S. income groups at its highest in 10 years, with nearly three-quarters of high-income Americans employed, compared with barely a third of the lowest income group. Although the analysis is based on January to July 2013, lower-income Americans may just be coming to terms with the challenging "new normal."

Essentially, the AP report suggests that given high unemployment, middle-income workers are getting pushed into low-skill jobs, thus crowding out lower-income workers -- who also tend to have much less education -- from their only job market. This domino effect creates highly differentiated unemployment rates by income level that could lead to the gaps in perceptions of the job market Gallup recorded this month.

What happens to Gallup's figures next month will be important in clarifying whether today's finding represents a true tipping point in income-based perceptions of the job market.

Bottom Line

While still negative on balance, Americans' perceptions of the nation's job market have generally been better this year than at any time since early 2008. From January through August, between 21% and 26% said now is a good time to find a quality job, putting this month's 27% just slightly above the recent range. While that's potentially good news, it is driven exclusively by improved perceptions among middle- and upper-income Americans. Lower-income Americans' views on this question have been at a yearly low since August, no doubt reflecting their challenges and frustrations at the bottom of the skills ladder.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 5-8, 2013, with a random sample of 1,510 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline and cell telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

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.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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