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Blog>Jobs Reports>2022 Trends United States Job Market Report

2022 Trends United States Job Market Report

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After showing strong growth in the early summer, the job market recovery once again slowed in the second half of 2021 with the emergence of the COVID-19 Delta variant. And now as the Omicron variant rises rapidly in the United States, the pandemic’s hold on the job market seems far from over. However, job seekers are adapting in many important ways — finding new jobs and quitting low-paying or unsatisfying jobs at record rates — while expecting increased pay and benefits.

In order to get a better understanding of the current job market and what 2022 will have in store, we surveyed more than 20,000 job seekers from across the country over the past three months. Are workers planning on quitting their jobs in the next year, and do they expect pay raises to keep pace with inflation? To what extent are workers still interested in remote jobs for 2022? What do workers think about the current state of employer benefits? And how do job seekers feel about their job prospects now compared to the beginning of 2021? Read on for a detailed breakdown of these key trends, and more, that will shape the U.S. job market in 2022.

Key Insights

  • No end in sight for the “Great Resignation.” Three out of four full-time employees are planning to quit their job in the next 12 months. Pay is a major reason why – 79% of employed job seekers believe that they can make more money by switching jobs than staying put in the current market.
  • Pay increases are common, but are being outpaced by inflation. Over half of employed workers (53%) received a pay raise in 2020. However, 58% of those who received a raise reported that their raise was 5% or less, failing to keep pace with the 6.8% inflation rate reported in November 2021.
  • Remote work remains extremely popular. 61% of all job seekers are interested in remote job opportunities for 2022. Of workers currently working remotely at least part of the time, 45% say they would quit if their employer required full-time in-person work in 2022.
  • Employers need to reevaluate workplace benefits post-pandemic. 80% of job seekers believe that employers need to re-evaluate the benefits that they offer after the pandemic. 67% of job seekers say that benefits are more important to them now than before the pandemic, and 54% would even consider taking a lower-paying job with a better benefits package.
  • Better days ahead? 38% of job seekers think their job prospects are better now than at the beginning of 2021, while just 18% think their prospects are worse. This is a major improvement from the end of 2020 when just 21% of job seekers thought their job prospects improved and 38% thought they worsened over the course of the year. Looking ahead to 2022, 37% of job seekers believe that it will be easier to find a job next year than it was in 2021.

The Great Resignation

As Americans continue to quit their jobs in record numbers, the Great Resignation that began in the early part of this year is still going strong. After 4.4 million workers quit their jobs in September and another 4.2 million quit in October, a record 4.5 million left their jobs in November. This trend appears to be here to stay.

According to our recent survey of over 2,000 employed workers, nearly three out of four full-time employees (74%) and more than half of part-time employees (51%) report that they are planning to quit their jobs in 2022. Overall, more than two-thirds of all employed workers (68%) say that they plan to leave their current job in the next 12 months.

great-resignation-survey-results

Not only are large numbers of workers planning on quitting, many are doing so without a new job lined up. In fact, 29% of workers in our survey report that they would be comfortable quitting before they have a new job. This makes some sense given the current job market dynamics, with an apparent labor shortage for certain roles and a record number of job openings. In February 2020, right before the start of the pandemic, there were just over seven million job openings. In October of this year, there were roughly 11 million — just slightly lower than July’s record of 11.1 million. Whether job seekers are considering a career change or another job in the same industry, they will likely find plenty of options.

Although there are many factors contributing to the Great Resignation, pay is likely one of the primary reasons why so many workers are quitting right now. In a separate survey of nearly 2,800 job seekers, we found that 79% thought that they could make more money right now by switching jobs. With a record number of job openings and broad expectations that higher pay is out there, it’s no wonder that job switching is so popular.

So, what can employers do to compete and retain talent? They could of course offer pay increases to current employees, but our survey results suggest that this still might not be enough. Among job seekers who received pay raises from their current employer in the last year, 72% still thought they could make more money by switching jobs. Interestingly, job seekers who received large pay raises of 20% or more were the most likely to believe switching jobs would enable them to earn even better pay. Current market dynamics are driving up wages at a rapid rate, and clearly many employers are struggling to keep up.

Pay and Inflation

The Great Resignation has led many companies to reevaluate their compensation strategy and proactively offer raises to retain employees. This is supported by national data, as Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that average hourly earnings have been rising steadily since March 2021.

According to our recent survey, 53% of employed workers received a pay raise in the last year. However, while raises were common, most job seekers’ pay raises were not enough to keep up with inflation. 58% of job seekers who received raises got raises of 5% or less. Since inflation rose by 6.8% from November 2020 to November 2021, the fastest pace in nearly 40 years, real wages actually fell for most workers who received wages.

While the majority of raises were not enough to compensate for the recent rise in prices, some job seekers received larger pay increases. Over a quarter of job seekers who received pay raises got raises in the 5-10% range, 8% received 10-20% raises, and another 8% received pay raises of 20% or more.

reports-of-raises-in-2021

Looking ahead to 2022, most job seekers are optimistic about receiving raises from their employer in the new year. Over half of survey respondents expect to receive a raise in 2022 if they stay with the same company. And job seekers who received a raise in 2021 are even more optimistic; they were more than twice as likely as job seekers who didn’t receive a raise to expect to receive another raise next year (71% compared to 30%). Job seekers who received small raises — less than 5% — were the least likely group to expect a raise in 2022 (69% compared to 80% of job seekers who received higher raises).

Remote Work

The remote work phenomenon that began in Spring 2020 isn’t going away anytime soon. Many workers appreciate not having to commute and the added flexibility that remote work provides. In addition, workers who are remote 100% of the time or only go into the office on occasion can often live wherever they want.

In a recent Joblist survey, over one-third of job seekers (37%) report that they are currently working remotely at least some of the time. Of these remote workers, 60% work remotely all of the time, another quarter work remotely three or four days per week on average, and 15% are remote one or two days per week on average. Interestingly, while similar proportions of male and female job seekers work remotely, more men than women work remotely full-time (75% compared to 54%).

Looking ahead to 2022, job seeker interest in remote jobs remains extremely high. Overall, 61% of job seekers say they are looking for a remote job in 2022 and another 22% are not sure. This is a significant shift from pre-pandemic behavior, with now more job seekers looking for remote opportunities than not.

job-seekers-discuss-remote-work

Although high overall, remote job interest varies to some extent by gender and age. Women are more interested in finding remote jobs than men (70% compared to 54%). Younger job seekers also show a higher level of interest than older ones, as 73% of 20 to 49 year olds say they are looking for a remote job in 2022 compared to 59% of those 50 and older. Unemployed job seekers are just slightly less likely to say they are looking for a remote job in 2022 than employed job seekers (61% compared to 68%).

Now almost two years into the pandemic, many remote workers report having no interest in returning to the office full-time. In fact, according to our survey, 45% of current remote workers say they would quit if their employer required full-time in-person work in 2022 and another 24% are not sure if they would quit. Propensity to quit also varies by gender and age. More men than women say they would quit their jobs if required to return to the office full-time (52% compared to 41%), while older remote workers are less likely to say they would quit (43% of 50+ compared to 53% of 20 to 49 year olds).

It remains unclear to what extent employers will require remote workers to come back into the office in 2022. While a large share of remote workers (41%) say their employers have back-to-office plans in place, the Omicron variant is already causing many employers to delay or rethink their current plans.

Workplace Benefit Reform

As workers leave their jobs in droves and companies raise pay to retain and attract workers, employer benefits have also received heightened attention. The pandemic has caused many Americans to rethink their job situations, careers, and priorities, as well as what they want from their employers.

Our study indicates that workplace benefits are more important to job seekers today than before the pandemic. Two out of three job seekers say that workplace benefits are more important to them now than before COVID, while only 6% say they are less important. Healthcare is the top benefit that job seekers care about (67%) while having a flexible work schedule is a close second (64%). Over half (54%) would even consider taking a lower-paying job that offered better benefits.

Despite the importance of benefits, a large share of employees believe that employers are under-delivering. In our survey, 80% of job seekers believe that employers need to re-evaluate the workplace benefits that they offer post-pandemic. And among full-time employees, 37% report being “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with the benefits offered by their employer.

Although the majority of job seekers think that employers need to re-evaluate the workplace benefits that they offer, they tend to be satisfied with their own employers’ health plans. Of the 62% of job seekers who receive healthcare benefits through their employers, 60% say they are satisfied with their health plans. Among job seekers who are not satisfied with their health plans, cost was the top complaint, with 61% saying that their health plans are too expensive. About half of job seekers not satisfied with their health plan cited inadequate coverage, and a quarter each cited out-of-network costs and lack of in-network options.

satisfaction-with-workplace-benefits

Even among job seekers satisfied with their employer health plans, 87% think that employers need to re-evaluate the workplace benefits they offer post-pandemic. Employees clearly have come to expect significant additional benefits beyond healthcare from their employers, and this is an important factor in attracting and retaining talent.

End-of-Year Reflections

As was the case at the end of 2020, we are still in the middle of a pandemic, and when it will end remains uncertain. However, job market conditions have greatly improved from a year ago. The unemployment rate has dropped from 6.7% in November 2020 to 4.2% in November 2021, and the economy has added 5.8 million jobs over the last year.

In a recent survey of Joblist job seekers, many believe that their job prospects are better now than at the beginning of 2021. They are also much more optimistic about the coming year than job seekers were at the end of 2020.

survey-results-for-2021-job-market-reflections

Overall, 82% of our survey respondents think their job prospects today are either better or similar to the start of 2021. 38% of job seekers think their job prospects are better while 44% think they are the same, and just 18% think they are worse. This is a major improvement from the end of 2020 when just 21% of job seekers thought their job prospects were better than the beginning of the year and 38% thought they were worse. Not surprisingly, employed job seekers have a much more positive perspective on the current job market than unemployed job seekers — 41% of employed job seekers think their job prospects are better now compared to 28% of unemployed job seekers.

Looking ahead to 2022, 37% of job seekers believe that it will be easier to find a job in the next year than it was in 2021. Another 34% of job seekers think it will be the same and 29% think it will be more difficult. Job seeker expectations have improved from last year when just 21% of job seekers thought it would be easier to find a job in 2021 than 2020, and 51% thought it would be more difficult. Employed job seekers are more likely to say that it will be easier to find a job next year than unemployed job seekers (39% compared to 28%). And job seekers planning on quitting in the next 12 months do not foresee difficulty finding new employment — 41% of them said that finding a job will be easier next year (compared to 34% of everyone else).

Future Outlook on Employment

The job market recovery and job seeker confidence are closely tied to the ebbs and flows of the pandemic. During late summer and early fall when the COVID-19 Delta variant was heavily impacting much of the country, the Job Seeker Confidence Index — our measure of how job seekers feel about the job market each month — declined noticeably from its June high. During Q4, the Job Seeker Confidence Index increased slightly before dropping again in recent weeks during the sudden rise of the Omicron variant.

Job seeker expectations improved from October to November and then worsened slightly in December. In November, more job seekers (36%) expected the job market to improve in the next month than in October (33%), but then this percentage fell in December to 34%. At the same time, the share of job seekers who thought that the job market will get worse remained relatively flat.

Similarly, the share of job seekers who view the job market as “easy” dropped slightly in December compared to October and November (from 21-22% in October and November to 19% in December). However, a growing share of job seekers do not think it will take long to find a new job. The share of job seekers who think it will take less than a month to find a job steadily increased over the quarter, from 52% in October to 58% in November to 59% in December.

december-job-seeker-confidence

While record numbers of resignations, job openings, and widely reported labor shortages mean that there are plenty of jobs available, millions of Americans remain jobless. This could be due to a mismatch of skills, childcare issues, or health concerns related to in-person work, among other reasons.

As the Omicron variant takes hold in the U.S., we see modest effects on job seeker confidence so far, but it’s likely that we will see greater impact in the weeks ahead as the shape of this wave becomes clearer.

Methodology

We surveyed 14,767 job seekers about their outlook on the job market and expectations for the future. We surveyed 2,783 job seekers about topics related to pay. We also surveyed an additional 2,879 job seekers about their interest and experience with remote work, including 669 current remote workers. Finally, we surveyed another 1,684 job seekers about their views on workplace benefits.

All 22,113 survey respondents were Joblist users in the United States. The surveys were conducted over the course of October, November, and December 2021.

This data has not been weighted, and it comes with some limitations. All of the information in this study relies on self-reporting. With self-reporting, respondents may overreport or underreport their answers and feelings to the questions provided.

The Joblist Job Seeker Confidence Index was created from several survey questions — how difficult job seekers perceive the market to be, how long they expect it will take to find a new job, and how optimistic they are about the future of the job market. Survey responses were rescaled and averaged to create a composite index. A Confidence Index of 80 or more would denote a very high degree of job seeker confidence, whereas a Confidence Index of 25 or less would denote an extremely low degree of confidence. Job seeker confidence has remained squarely in the middle of these extremes throughout the pandemic.

Fair Use Statement

It’s difficult to predict exactly what the future will hold, but we hope this data helps paint a more vivid representation of the job market in America today. Share these findings with your readers for any noncommercial use by including a link back to this page so they have full access to our methodology and results. At Joblist, we know every job search is different. Helping you find the right job means surfacing results tailored to your experience, industry, and job priorities. Whether you’re a recent graduate, unemployed due to COVID-19, or looking for a remote-work opportunity that will let you keep your home office, Joblist will curate personalized matches based on criteria that you define. Even better, you're not alone in the process — Joblist enables you to share the list of jobs you're interested in with your friends, family, and others in your network so that they can also participate in your job search.

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