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U.S. Workers: More Productive, but Less Secure

U.S. Workers: More Productive, but Less Secure

by Coleen McMurray

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently reported that the number of workers requesting unemployment benefits rose above the 400,000 mark in July, while at the same time, productivity in the business sector grew. The conclusion reached is that fewer Americans are doing more work. Although rising productivity numbers may be encouraging for business owners and economists, American workers are less satisfied with their job security than they were last year.

In response to a Gallup Poll conducted Aug. 4-6, 2003*, 44% of employed Americans said they are "completely satisfied" with their current job, and another 41% are "somewhat satisfied." Small percentages of American workers are either "somewhat dissatisfied" (11%) or "completely dissatisfied" (4%) with their jobs.

While the number of workers saying that they are completely satisfied is not significantly higher than it was in a survey conducted last year, the percentage of workers completely satisfied with their jobs has increased over the last 14 years: from 28% in 1989 to 44% today. It's important to note that over those years, the percentage of dissatisfied workers has not really changed. The shift is the result of higher percentages of workers saying they are completely satisfied rather than somewhat satisfied.

In this same poll, Gallup asked American workers to rate 13 aspects of their jobs. Only satisfaction with job security is down slightly from one year ago. Satisfaction with all other aspects is flat or improved over last year. Specifically, a majority of Americans (55%) reported being "completely satisfied" with their job security a year ago, compared to 48% in August 2003. The trend's low point came during the recession of 1991, when only 35% of workers said they were completely satisfied with their job security.

When specific aspects of American workers' job satisfaction are examined, the item with which they are least likely to say they are completely satisfied is the amount of on-the-job stress they experience. The item workers rate highest in terms of satisfaction is physical safety on the job. Job security falls in the middle on the list of 13 items.

Age is strongly related to workers' satisfaction with their job security. Workers between the ages of 18 and 29 are much more likely to be completely satisfied with their job security than are those 50 and older (60% vs. 46%). Those with a college education are slightly more likely than those with no college background to be completely satisfied with their job security (50% vs. 42%).

Bottom Line

Gallup's results seem to confirm the BLS reports. Job satisfaction remains relatively high during an uncertain economic time, which may help boost productivity gains resulting from new technologies. Employees who are happy in their jobs are more likely to work hard and be more productive. Comparatively lower ratings of their satisfaction with their own job security provide a caveat, however -- if the economy continues to bleed jobs, that consideration may figure more prominently in Americans' overall job satisfaction.

*Gallup conducted telephone interviews from Aug. 4-6, 2003, with a randomly selected sample of adults in the continental United States. A total of 588 respondents were employed either full or part time. For the sample of 588 employed adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error for percentages is not greater than ±4 percentage points.

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