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Job Market Optimism Up Sharply in Northern America, Europe

Job Market Optimism Up Sharply in Northern America, Europe

by Joe Goldman and Justin McCarthy

Story Highlights

  • Worldwide, positive job market outlook up two percentage points
  • N. America, EU see largest gains in job optimism since 2013
  • Diverging paths for optimism in Northern America and Latin America

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Although global job prospects remained glum in 2014, slightly more than one in three adults worldwide (36%) said it was a "good time" to find a job in their communities, which is up two percentage points from the previous year. Optimism was highest in Northern America (51%) and lowest in the European Union (25%). Both regions experienced the largest year-over-year improvements in the world.

Good or Bad Time to Find a Job, by Region

These data were collected throughout 2014 in 145 countries and may not reflect some of changes that have occurred since that time, such as ongoing declines in unemployment rates in the U.S. Northern America's 13-point increase was the largest positive change in the world, followed by the EU's eight-point increase and the Middle East and North Africa's six-point gain.

Meanwhile, the percentage saying it was a good time to find a job inched up three points to 38% in Asia and the Pacific region, which was the only region that didn't have a majority viewing it as a "bad time" to find a job. The jobs outlook in sub-Saharan Africa and the former Soviet Union remained unchanged.

Opposing Trends: Big Gains in Northern America While Latin America Dips

The jobs outlook in Northern America was notably rosier than that in Latin America and the Caribbean for the first time since the global economic downturn in 2008, and it marked the first time that a majority of residents in Northern America said it was a good time to find a job in their areas. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the four-point decrease in the percentage saying it was a good time to find a job led to the region's worst jobs outlook since 2010.

Good Time to Find a Job, Northern America vs. Latin America and the Caribbean

A souring jobs outlook in five of Latin America's six most populous nations -- Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Venezuela -- largely drove the dip in the percentage saying it was a good time to find a job in the region. Majorities of residents in only three Latin American countries had a positive outlook on job prospects in their areas: Panama (60%), Paraguay (54%) and Bolivia (51%). In 2013, Panama was the only Latin American nation with a majority holding this view and saw no change in its figure in the following year. Paraguay and Bolivia, however, saw seven- and six-point improvements, respectively, in that time.

Meanwhile, the jobs outlook in Northern America improved significantly. This is largely attributable to the 14-point increase in the percentage saying it was a good time to find a job in the U.S., likely reflecting a surging stock market, economic growth and a falling unemployment rate. Last year marked the first time in Gallup's tracking that U.S. job market optimism has matched that in Canada.


Most EU Nations Experience Improvements in Job Market Outlook

One in four EU residents said it was a good time to find a job in their area in 2014 -- the best outlook the region has had since the global economic collapse in 2008. Double-digit increases in eight countries, led by Ireland (+30) and the United Kingdom (+26), boosted the "good time" percentage from a dismal 17% in 2013. There were no declines in any EU member states, which is also positive news. But in some countries, such as Italy where 3% said it was a good time to find a job, it would have been difficult for outlooks to have been much worse.


Germans remained the most optimistic in the EU, with the seven-point boost in 2014 making it the only country where a majority of residents were optimistic about the current job market. Notably, the jobs outlook in troubled Greece also improved by seven points. Attitudes in Spain and Portugal, which also suffered during the recent European sovereign debt crisis, were up eight and 10 points, respectively.

Bottom Line

Worldwide, the jobs outlook continues to inch slowly higher after bottoming out at 25% in 2009. Still, a slight majority of people in the world view the job market pessimistically. Improvements in the employment outlook in the EU -- which has arguably had nowhere to go but up after years of dour levels of optimism -- are a welcomed sign that the region is in the process of recovering.

Northern Americans led the world in job optimism in 2014. Several key economic factors -- including increased economic confidence and lower unemployment in the U.S. -- have most likely made Northern American residents much more hopeful about their jobs outlook into 2015.

The data in this article are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face and telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted throughout 2013 in 130 countries and 2014 in 145 countries. For results based on the total samples margin of sampling error ranges from ±2.5 percentage points to ±5.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The margin of error reflects the influence of data 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.

With some exceptions, all samples are probability based and nationally representative of the resident population aged 15 and older.

Exceptions include areas where the safety of interviewing staff is threatened, scarcely populated islands in some countries, and areas that interviewers can reach only by foot, animal, or small boat.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set Details.

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