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Job Losses Underpin Support for Jobs-and-Training Initiative

Job Losses Underpin Support for Jobs-and-Training Initiative

by Steve Crabtree

Story Highlights

  • 76% of Americans say job loss has become more urgent in recent months
  • 93% support a jobs-and-training program as part of COVID-19 recovery
  • Caring for vulnerable populations most popular goal for such a program

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A new study by the Carnegie Corporation and Gallup highlights Americans' widespread concern about job losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, Americans were most likely to choose access to healthcare and the economy/job loss among the most important issues currently facing the nation, from a list of eight. When asked which of those eight issues have become more urgent in recent months, however, they were most likely to choose the economy and job loss (76%).

Horizontal bar graph. Americans' perceptions of the most important issues facing the U.S. today. Americans are most likely to note access to health insurance and healthcare as the most important issue, with 61% citing this. When asked which issue has become more pressing in the past six months, Americans are most likely to note economic recession or job loss, with 76% doing so.

The Biden administration's and the new Congress' response to the COVID-19 economic downturn aims to both address the current employment crisis and promote longer-term job growth. At a time when rapid automation is forcing many U.S. workers to acquire new skills, opportunities to pair on-the-job experience with relevant skills training have broad appeal.

Sixty-two percent of Americans -- including 65% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans -- said pairing paid work with education and training opportunities is the best way to prepare people for future jobs. By contrast, 16% said providing education and training opportunities alone is the best approach, while 17% said the same about work opportunities alone.

Bar graph. Americans' views on the effectiveness of ways to attain work skills and credentials. 62% of all Americans say a combination of paid part-time work and paid part-time education would be most effective, followed by 17% who favor paid full-time work and 16% who believe paid full-time education and job-skills training is best.

These results are based on a web-based survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,993 U.S. adults who are Gallup Panel members. The survey was conducted by the Carnegie Corporation and Gallup from Oct. 21 to Nov. 5, 2020.

More Than Nine in 10 Favor Combining Paid Work With Targeted Training

The perceived need to address both short-term and longer-term employment challenges is reflected in a high level of support for a national initiative that creates paid work and job training opportunities as a component of COVID-19 economic recovery efforts. More than nine in 10 Americans (93%) -- including 98% of Democrats and 87% of Republicans -- said they favor such an initiative.

Ring graph. Americans' support for a government jobs program for those who have lost their jobs during COVID-19. 93% of Americans favor such a program, while 7% are opposed.

Asked which of several possible factors might be reasons to support such a program, a majority of Americans across party lines (64% overall, including 72% of Democrats and 60% of Republicans) chose its potential to promote long-term economic growth by putting people back to work and helping them build skills for future jobs.

However, Democrats and Republicans differed more substantially on other factors they say make them more likely to support such a program. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say adding paid work opportunities as part of the national response to pandemic-related job loss is preferable to simply increasing the amount of unemployment insurance -- 92% vs. 55%, respectively. Meanwhile, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say the idea that a national jobs-and-training program would address local needs that communities currently lack the resources to address is a reason to support it -- 58% vs. 31%.

Caring for Vulnerable, Addressing Lost Learning Time Among Most Popular Goals for Jobs-and-Training Program

In addition to gauging Americans' reactions to the general idea of a jobs-and-training initiative, the study listed 10 national objectives such a program might address, including goals related to health, education and environmental issues, as well as infrastructure development. Respondents rated each objective as "high priority," "medium priority" or "not a priority."

At least 80% of Democrats and Republicans described six objectives as high or medium priority: 1) Caring for vulnerable populations; 2) Addressing COVID-19 learning loss for K-12 students; 3) Building and repairing infrastructure; 4) Preventing and addressing the consequences of natural disasters; 5) Expanding access to quality childcare; and 6) Expanding access to high-speed internet.

Americans' Priorities for Goals of a New Jobs Training Program
Below are some examples of goals that could be addressed by creating new jobs as part of this program. In your opinion, what is the priority level of each of these -- high priority, medium priority or not a priority? % High priority/Medium priority
All Americans Democrats Republicans
% % %
Delivering food, prescriptions, or providing care to elderly and other vulnerable populations 98 99 97
Building and repairing infrastructure 97 98 97
Addressing the impact of lost learning time for K-12 students related to COVID-19 94 95 95
Preventing and addressing the consequences of natural disasters 94 98 88
Expanding access to quality childcare 92 97 85
Ensuring clean air and water 89 99 78
Expanding access to high-speed internet 89 97 80
Improving public health 87 99 73
Improving government websites for better online public services 82 85 78
Making homes, offices and schools more energy efficient 80 94 62
Carnegie Corporation/Gallup, 2020


Strong public support for the idea of a national jobs-and-training program signals a high degree of public concern about the impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on American workers. However, such support also appears to reflect the appeal of looking past the current crisis to find creative solutions to the longer-term challenges it has highlighted -- most notably, the need to better prepare workers to meet current labor market needs.

Many of the jobs affected by the pandemic were already vulnerable to automation or changing consumer behaviors. The crisis has accelerated trends that were previously reducing demand for workers in certain industries, such as the shift toward e-commerce rather than physical stores, streaming movies at home rather than going to the theater, or videoconferencing rather than taking business trips. In recognition of those trends, creative approaches like a jobs-and-training initiative could help participants learn skills that better equip them to find jobs less vulnerable to becoming obsolete because of technology, while strengthening workforce development in crucial sectors like education and healthcare.

To learn more, read the full report.

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