A nation of job hunters

As the labor market continues to react to the fallout from the pandemic, close to two in five workers say they are open to something new.

The author(s)

  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
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November 23- As the labor market continues to react to the fallout from the pandemic, Ipsos re-fielded questions from the spring to understand who is looking for a new job.

As it turns out, close to two in five currently employed workers are at least open to new job opportunities or already looking, indicative of the foment beneath the surface within some workplaces. To contextualize this, we analyze how job satisfaction and benefits play into a person’s decision to stay in their current role.

Beyond that, we investigate the emotional connections and mental health resources people have at work.

In the spring and fall, a consistent block of people is considering a new job

To better understand the pandemic’s impact on the labor market, Ipsos polled people in May and then again in November on the state of their job and their thoughts on finding a new one. Both now and in the spring, a relatively small consistent number of people are considering a new job.

Across both surveys, roughly one in three people are open to a new job. That breaks down to a little less than one in ten people who are actively looking for a new job; and an additional one in four who, during both periods, would be open to a new job but weren't actively looking.

The stability Ipsos found between these two surveys is consistent with the stability in the official job reports. In May, BLS found that 2.5% of people report quitting their jobs, while that number rose to 3% in September (the most recently available stats). 

Between the official number of people who have quit and the potential number of people Ipsos has identified, there is a significant amount of potential energy in the labor market to add to this turmoil. The one in three people considering a job change represents roughly 80 million adults open or looking for a new job. Adding in the fact that, compared to February 2020, there are 5.2 million fewer people working today, the labor situation grows more complicated. Fewer total people working, and more quitting makes the ability to hire and retain workers more complicated. 

Two in five workers are open to new opportunities

Among the currently employed, close to two in five are open to new opportunities or actively looking for something different. Meanwhile, a majority of those who are out of the workforce are not actively looking. Around nine in ten of retired Americans are not looking for a job, leaving just a tiny fraction who are looking or open to the possibilities.

Meanwhile, 57% of those who are outside of the workforce but could theoretically be working say they are not looking for a new job at the moment, perhaps indicative of why some sectors have struggled to make up the labor shortfall. This group includes people who have been laid off, furloughed, as well as students and homemakers.

The vaccinated are less likely to be looking for a new job right now

While most people—regardless of vaccine status—are not looking for a new job right now, the unvaccinated are slightly more likely to be open to possibly changing positions.

Seventy-one percent of vaccinated people are not looking for a new job in any capacity, while 62% of unvaccinated people feel the same. Unvaccinated people are actually more likely to be open to a new job but not actively looking. Thirty percent of unvaccinated people fall into this category, while 23% of vaccinated people are in the same boat.

Few people—less than one in ten—are actively looking for a new job among the unvaccinated and vaccinated.

Younger people are more likely to be looking for a new gig

A closer look across the generations reveals that younger people are most likely to be looking for something new. Since these numbers did not meaningfully change from May to November, we combined our survey waves from May and November 2021 to derive a larger sample population across age groups to better understand how the job search is playing out across generations.

The data underline that Gen Z-ers are most likely to be looking or open to new possibilities. As the generation most recently out of college, many in this group are still establishing themselves in their careers.

Many millennials also indicate they are open to new opportunities, and 12% say they are actively looking for a new job. As the generation that entered the workforce around the Great Recession and in an era of stagnant wages paired with high student loan debt, many may be seeking to capitalize on the most robust jobs market of their working lives to date.

Gen Z less likely to know what their mental health resources are at work

As companies push to mitigate the stress and turmoil of the past twenty months, many are expanding their mental health benefits on offer. But do employees know what they can access?

Recent Ipsos polling finds that about half of workers know what mental health resources they have at work, meaning one in five do not know what they are, and an additional one in four aren’t sure. Though, there are some notable differences by age underneath the topline findings. Compared to older workers, Gen Z (people 25 or younger) are less likely to know what their mental health resources are at work. In fact, two in five Gen Z'ers don't know what their mental health resources are at their disposal. That number drops to 24% among millennials, 18% among Gen X'ers, and 14% among Boomers.

Some of the differences by age, particularly between Gen Z and older age cohorts, may have to do with what insurance someone is on. Gen Z may be more likely to still qualify for their parent's insurance. As a result, they may be less aware of the full breadth of mental health resources offered through their companies' insurance policy.

Given the stable trend over time between the May and November waves of this survey, we combined these two waves to get enough sample to analyze this question by generation.

Less than half of job seekers say their current benefits and salary are good

Among those who are looking for a new job, dissatisfaction with the salary, benefits and other aspects of their work shine through relative to those who are not looking. Again, to conduct this analysis, we combined the May and November waves to create a more robust sample, as the topline number indicate that opinion has largely remained static from May to now.

While 63% of those who are not open to new jobs say the salary at their current job is good, just 39% of those who are either actively looking or open to new opportunities say the same. Just under half of all job seekers say the benefits at their current job are good. Notably, just 18% of job seekers see a clear path for promotion for themselves at their current place of work, compared to 39% of those who feel more settled in their role.

Job seekers tend to feel less supported and connected at work

Similarly, job seekers tend to feel less supported and connected at work than people are not looking. As Ipsos polling shows, people who are open to new opportunities or actively looking for a new job are 14 percentage points less likely to say they trust their team or coworkers, and 13 percentage points less likely to feel that their supervisor would support them if things got tough at work.

On the flip side, people who are open to new opportunities are more likely to feel that the stress of their jobs is bleeding into other areas of their life, affecting relationships with friends or family. While just 7% overall say that the stress of their job makes them cry regularly, more job seekers than non-job seekers say this is the case for them.

In a similar vein, people who are at least somewhat open to looking for another job opportunity are less likely to say that their company’s leadership prioritizes mental health (just 25%, compared to 40% of non-job seekers), and only one in four say they feel comfortable discussing mental health at work.

The author(s)

  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs

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