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U.S. Job Market Evaluations Improved, Still Lag Pre-Pandemic

U.S. Job Market Evaluations Improved, Still Lag Pre-Pandemic

Story Highlights

  • 43% say it is a good time to find a quality job, up from 27% in January
  • Current reading still trails final pre-pandemic measure of 68%
  • Nearly half as many workers as a year ago say job loss is likely

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are much more positive about the U.S. job market than they were a year ago, when people in most states were living under stay-at-home orders as the coronavirus spread throughout the country. The percentage who say it is "a good time to find a quality job" is up more than 20 points, and far fewer employed Americans today than in 2020 say it is likely they will lose their job. While both measures show dramatic improvement, neither has returned to the levels Gallup measured before the pandemic began.

Assessments of U.S. Job Market

Gallup's April 1-21 Economy and Personal Finance survey finds 43% of U.S. adults saying it is a good time to find a quality job, up from 22% a year ago and 27% in January. While the current percentage is the highest since the pandemic began, it is still well below the 68% recorded in Gallup's final pre-pandemic measure, from January 2020.

Line graph. Forty-three percent of U.S. adults say it is a good time to find a quality job, which is higher than any other reading during the pandemic, but still well below the 68% measured before the pandemic began.

The pre-pandemic reading ranks as one of the best Gallup has measured since it began asking about the job market using this question in 2001. The high point is 71% recorded in May 2019, after the U.S. unemployment rate hit a then-50-year low.

Despite the sharp souring of job-market perceptions in the initial phase of the pandemic, the 22% who thought it was a good time to find a quality job was still better than the trend's low point, 8% in November 2009 and November 2011. Those readings were taken as the U.S. was emerging from the Great Recession and unemployment was hovering near 10%.

Key subgroups by party identification, employment status and household income have better views of the job market now than they did previously during the pandemic, including in April 2020 and January 2021. Of these groups, Democrats' opinions have improved the most and Republicans' the least, reflecting the change in presidential administrations that occurred after the January poll was conducted.

All but Democrats are much less optimistic than they were before the pandemic in January 2020.

Percentage Saying It Is a Good Time to Find a Quality Job, by Subgroup
Jan 2020 Apr 2020 Jan 2021 Apr 2021
% % % %
Democrat 47 10 15 44
Independent 69 21 29 42
Republican 89 37 38 44
Employed 72 22 29 44
Not employed 63 21 25 41
Upper income 77 20 30 51
Middle income 71 23 27 40
Lower income 57 22 28 38

Notably, Democrats, Republicans and independents are now about equally likely to say it is a good time to find a quality job. This may reflect that a Democratic president is in office, but it is early enough in Joe Biden's term that Republicans might attribute improving economic conditions to former President Donald Trump and his policies.

The usual mediating effect of partisanship on people's assessments of the job market is clear when looking at the recent trends. Republicans (89%) were far more likely than Democrats (47%) to say it was a good time to find a quality job in January 2020 when Trump was in office and unemployment was lower than it is now. A party gap persisted in April 2020, when business closures forced many people out of work, but it shrank from 42 points to 27 points, as 37% of Republicans and 10% of Democrats rated the job market positively.

While many of those who were unemployed last spring are now back to work, the shift in presidential administrations has resulted in a surge in Democrats' ratings, while Republicans' evaluations are only modestly better.

Evaluations of Personal Job Security

When U.S. workers are asked about the prospects of losing their job, 13% say it is "very" or "fairly likely" to happen. This is down by nearly half from a year ago, the last time Gallup asked the question, when 25% thought it was likely. Before that -- in April 2019 -- only 8% said it was likely they would be laid off, tied for the lowest Gallup has measured in the trend.

Line graph. The 13% of U.S. workers who say it is very or somewhat likely they will lose their job in the next 12 months is down from 25% in April 2020, but remains higher than the 8% recorded in 2019.

As the percentage of employed adults who say they are likely to lose their job has fallen, a majority of 53% once again say they are "not at all likely" to be laid off. Last year, only 38% said this, tied for the lowest percentage in Gallup's trend with an April 2010 measure.

Lower- and middle-income workers (15%) are more likely than higher-income workers (8%) to say it is likely they will lose their job.

While Republicans and Democrats currently have similar assessments of whether it is a good time to find a quality job, Republican workers (17%) are more likely than Democratic workers (7%) to consider losing their job likely.

As further evidence of easing concerns about unemployment, 7% mention loss of a job as the most important financial problem facing their family, compared with 12% a year ago, when it tied for the top overall concern.

Bottom Line

Americans' evaluations of the job market have improved from the worst of the pandemic, yet they are not back to where they were before much of the U.S. economy was disrupted by the coronavirus. As increasing numbers of U.S. adults get vaccinated against COVID-19, states look to ease restrictions, and there will likely be increasing consumer demand for recreational activities spurring job growth in areas hit hard by the pandemic, the job market is poised to improve even further. If the unemployment rate drops and approaches pre-pandemic levels below 4%, Americans' positive opinions about the job market should also approach their previous heights.

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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