As the economy and housing market cooled in the third quarter of 2022, the job market remained relatively strong. Job growth exceeded expectations, the unemployment rate hovered at 3.7%, and job openings outnumbered unemployed job seekers by a two-to-one ratio. However, in its continued effort to curb inflation, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates once again in September – the third major rate hike since June – and many fear that this could slow hiring and accelerate layoffs in the months ahead. The red-hot job market may not stay that way for much longer.
During this pivotal time, we surveyed nearly 19,000 job seekers from across the country about the current job market and their expectations for the future. Is the Great Resignation still going strong in this uncertain economic climate? How concerned are workers about inflation and layoffs? Is “quiet quitting” a real trend or overblown? And how did the rise of recent COVID-19 subvariants affect workers, and their vacation plans, this summer?
Read on for a detailed breakdown of these key questions, and more, facing the U.S. job market in Q3 2022.
Great Resignation slows as recession concerns rise. Nearly half (47%) of employed job seekers say that rising recession concerns and economic uncertainty have made them less likely to quit their jobs now than in the past. Over one-third (36%) of employed job seekers still say they are planning to quit their job in the next six months, but this represents a significant drop from a peak of 73% in August 2021.
Inflation pain. Despite high inflation, 53% of employees have not received a pay raise so far in 2022. As a result, many employed job seekers are considering drastic measures to increase their pay, including switching industries (28%) and taking on a second job (25%). Over one-third of workers (35%) also report putting more expenses on their credit cards due to rising costs, which could be a warning sign of a consumer debt crisis to come.
The extent of quiet quitting is perhaps overblown. Only 9% of employees say they are working less hard now than they were six months ago, while much higher percentages are working just as hard (50%) or harder (41%). This suggests that either quiet quitting is not as prevalent as one might expect based on recent coverage, or it’s just a new name for an old phenomenon.
Productivity is down, burnout is up. Over one-quarter (27%) of workers say they’ve been less productive at work this year than in previous years. Instead of conscious quiet quitting, burnout could be a main underlying cause – 49% of workers say that they currently feel burned out at work.
Layoffs become mainstream. Nearly one-quarter (23%) of employed job seekers report that they or someone they know have been affected by layoffs this year. Hospitality and technology workers (17%) are the most likely to be “very worried” about being laid off right now.
COVID-19 absences eat into vacation time this summer. Only 13% of workers say that they have taken more vacation so far this year compared to last year, and 47% have taken less vacation. Meanwhile, 28% of workers report having missed work this year due to being sick with COVID-19 or taking care of someone with COVID-19. Unfortunately, those who missed work due to COVID are more than twice as likely than others to report that their employers had later denied their vacation requests.
Job market warning signs. Job seeker perceptions about the difficulty of the job market grew progressively more negative over the quarter. In July, 31% of job seekers thought that it was “easy” or “somewhat easy” to get a new job. This share dropped to 29% in August and then 26% in September.
Great Resignation Losing Steam
Americans are still quitting at historically high rates, but there were signs in Q3 that the Great Resignation could be slowing. In July, 4.2 million Americans (2.7% of the workforce) quit their jobs. Although still significantly elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels, this now marks the fourth consecutive month of declining quits.
According to our survey, there is a direct relationship between the worsening economic climate and the Great Resignation losing steam. In fact, nearly half (47%) of employed job seekers say that economic uncertainty and recession concerns have made them less likely to quit their jobs now than in the past. As the market tightens, job seekers seem to be growing more hesitant about switching jobs.
Nevertheless, many remain undeterred by recession concerns. In our survey, over one-third of employed job seekers (36%) report that they are planning on quitting their jobs in the next six months. Although this may seem high, it represents a significant drop from a peak of 73% who were planning to quit in a previous August 2021 survey. This shows how job searching behavior has changed dramatically in the last year – whereas the majority of employed job seekers were planning to quit imminently last August amidst a strong job market, most now seem to be browsing opportunistically and do not necessarily plan to quit.
Interestingly, the likelihood of quitting in today’s market varies significantly for job seekers across generations. Gen Zers (44%) are the most likely to say they are planning to quit in the next six months, while Gen Xers (27%) are the least likely. Meanwhile, Millennials and Boomers (both 40%) are in the middle of this range.
Inflation rose by 9.1% in June — the highest rate in over four decades. It has moderated only slightly in the months since then, with prices 8.5% higher in July from the year prior, and 8.3% higher in August. While wage growth has been strong this year at 5.2%, it has not been nearly high enough to keep up with inflation.
In a July survey, we found that the majority of job seekers were very concerned about inflation. 69% of job seekers reported being “worried” or “very worried” about inflation, while less than 6% were “not at all worried.” The majority of healthcare and education workers were “very worried” about inflation (53%) whereas tech workers were not quite as concerned — just 37% reported being “very worried.” Not surprisingly, workers who have already received a pay raise this year are not as concerned about inflation as those who have not received a raise. 44% of workers who received a pay raise are “very worried” about inflation compared to 54% of those workers who have not.
Looking ahead, most job seekers have a pessimistic outlook on inflation. In our July survey, 70% of job seekers thought that inflation would go up over the rest of the year while just 5% thought it would go down. So far, inflation has dropped only slightly from its June peak.
Despite record-high inflation, the majority of job seekers (53%) have not received a pay raise in 2022. Of those who have not received a raise, only 28% expect to receive a raise by the end of the year. Education and warehouse/factory workers are the most likely to have received a pay raise (52%) while tech and healthcare workers are the least likely (43%).
Consumers are certainly feeling the pain of higher prices. In our survey, over one-in-three job seekers (35%) report putting more expenses on their credit cards due to rising costs and inflation. Workers in education are the most likely to report putting more expenses on their credit cards (47%) while tech workers are the least likely (30%). This type of broad increase in consumer debt could become a crisis by 2023, especially as rates continue to increase and the job market potentially becomes more difficult.
Finally, our survey results show that inflation has made a significant impact on job searching behavior. The most common way that employed job seekers are responding to inflation is by looking for a higher-paying job (47%). However, some are also considering more drastic measures to combat rising costs, including switching industries (28%) or taking on a second job (25%). Others are looking for a job with a shorter commute to save money on gas (19%), looking for a remote job to eliminate commuting altogether (18%), or simply working more hours to offset costs (15%).
Workers in brick-and-mortar industries are the most likely to report that inflation is impacting their job search. For instance, hospitality and retail workers are the most likely to say they are looking for a higher-paying job (56%). Hospitality workers are also the most likely to say they are considering switching industries (36%) or working more hours to offset costs (25%).
“Quiet quitting,” the latest workplace trend that has blown up on social media, refers to the idea that workers should not go above and beyond at work but just complete their assigned tasks. Some have speculated that this new trend is partially responsible for recent drops in labor productivity, which fell 2.5% year-over-year in Q2 — its steepest annual drop since 1948, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, others have argued that quiet quitting has always been around, and this is simply a new name for an old practice.
In our recent survey, we find that the drop in productivity this year is real for many workers. Overall, more than one-quarter (27%) of survey respondents say they have been less productive at work this year than in previous years. Millennials have the highest rates of being less productive (37%), while Boomers are the least likely to say that they have been less productive (20%). Moreover, while less than 10% of job seekers admit that they are working less hard now than they were six months ago, this figure is nearly double for Millennials (16%).
Although productivity is down, the majority of employees reject the idea that they are intentionally working less hard or consciously “quiet quitting.” In our survey, only 9% of employees report that they are working less hard now than they were six months ago, while much higher percentages are working just as hard (50%) or harder (41%). And looking ahead, just 8% say that they are planning to work less hard in the next six months. This suggests that either quiet quitting is not as prevalent as one might think, or it’s just a re-branding of an old phenomenon.
Based on our survey, it seems that burnout could be a larger driver of productivity declines than deliberate quiet quitting. About half of survey respondents (49%) reported feeling burned out at work right now. Millennials had the highest burnout rates at 59%, while Boomers reported feeling burned out the least frequently (41%). More than two years into a stressful pandemic, people are understandably fatigued.
Although the quiet quitting trend may be overblown, our survey results find that over 30% of workers think that their bosses cannot tell when they give less effort at work. This belief is most prevalent among Boomers (37%) and least common among Gen Zers (26%). These results suggest that some “quiet quitters” may do so because they believe no one will notice.
In light of this, we also surveyed workers about the different factors that determine their effort level at work. Overall, employees most commonly cite money (64%), pride in doing a good job (64%), and how they are treated by their employers (61%) as their primary motivators. In addition, many also mention maintaining a good work-life balance (55%), ensuring job security (42%), advancing their career (36%), and managing stress/burnout (35%) as factors influencing how hard they work.
Interestingly, the specific motivating factors vary significantly by age. For instance, Gen Zers are much more likely than older workers to say that money determines their effort level (81%) and much less likely to say that pride determines their effort level (51%), perhaps reflecting how relationships with employers have become increasingly transactional for young employees. On the other hand, Boomers are more likely than average to say that pride in doing a good job determines their effort level (70%), while Millennials are more motivated than average by career advancement (45%).
Layoffs Go Mainstream
While the job market has been mostly resilient so far, it’s clearly starting to cool off a bit. The unemployment rate rose to 3.7% last month, and a slew of employers have announced layoffs. A recent PwC survey showed that half of employers are in the process of reducing their headcount.
Our survey results confirm that layoffs have become mainstream in 2022. Nearly one-in-four employed job seekers have either been personally affected or know someone who has been affected by layoffs this year. Hospitality workers are the most likely to say they or someone they know has been affected by layoffs (33%), while education workers are the least likely (18%). Not surprisingly, those who have been affected by layoffs or know someone who has are much more likely to be worried about layoffs and losing their jobs (51% compared to 9% of everyone else). Compared to older generations, Gen Zers are much more likely to have been affected by layoffs (or know someone who has) — 30% of Gen Zers have been affected compared to 21% of older job seekers.
While most employed job seekers are not overly worried about layoffs or losing their jobs, 14% are “very worried.” At the other end of the spectrum, 53% are “not worried at all.” While most job seekers are not any more worried than they were at the start of 2022 (46% feel about the same and 28% are less worried), 26% are more worried. Similarly, 47% of job seekers feel about the same as they did at this time last year, while 28% are less worried and 25% are more worried about layoffs.
Layoff concerns also vary by industry. Hospitality and tech workers are the most likely to be “very worried” about layoffs (17%) while education workers are the least likely (11%). In addition, with the rise in tech layoffs, one-in-three tech workers reports being more worried about layoffs now than at this time last year.
The most recent waves of COVID-19 infections, driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the Omicron strain, wreaked havoc on businesses this summer. From July 27th to August 8th, 2.5 million Americans missed work due to COVID-19, a 25% increase from the same time last year. Many small businesses struggled to keep their doors open as a result, and summer vacations and labor shortages only exacerbated the issue.
Not surprisingly, our survey reveals that a significant share of workers (28%) have missed work this year due to being sick with COVID-19 or taking care of someone with COVID-19. Among those who missed work, it was most common to miss 4 to 5 days (28%) while about half as many (14%) missed more than 10 days of work.
COVID-19 absences have unfortunately eaten into vacation time for a significant number of people. Of those who missed work for COVID, 38% report that this caused them to take less vacation time than they had hoped or planned. And while very few job seekers overall reported that their employers had denied vacation requests (10%), those who missed work due to COVID were more than twice as likely to say that their employers had denied their requests.
Based on our survey, we find that vacation time is actually down in 2022. Only 13% of workers say that they have taken more vacation so far this year compared to last year, and 47% have taken less vacation. Overall, 48% of job seekers have taken between 1 and 10 days of vacation so far this year, while 35% have not taken any vacation. Looking ahead, workers are almost evenly divided about whether they plan to use all of their vacation time by the end of the year — 32% say they will not use all their PTO or vacation, 32% will use it all, and 35% are not sure.
Future Outlook on Employment
Even as other parts of the economy — especially the housing market — are slowing down, the job market has remained mostly strong. The economy added a healthy 841,000 jobs in July and August. And while the unemployment rate ticked up to 3.7%, this was mainly driven by hundreds of thousands of people joining the labor force. There are some signs, however, that point to a slightly cooling job market already in Q3.
The Job Seeker Confidence Index — Joblist’s measure of how job seekers feel about the job market each month — fell steadily over the quarter, and in September dropped to its lowest level since early 2021. Inflation remains high, employers have announced hiring freezes and layoffs, and many job seekers are worried about a recession.
Job seekers continue to be divided over whether the job market will improve, get worse, or stay the same in the next month. The share of job seekers in Q3 who thought the job market would get worse the following month hovered between 15% and 16%, which stayed relatively flat from the spring and early summer. However, in September, fewer job seekers (27%) thought that the market would improve next month than in July and August (29% and 31%, respectively).
Job seeker perceptions about the difficulty of the job market grew progressively more negative over the quarter. In July, 31% of job seekers thought that it was “easy” or “somewhat easy” to get a new job. This share dropped to 29% in August and then 26% in September. At the same time, the share of job seekers who thought it was “difficult” or “somewhat difficult” to get a new job increased from 34-35% in July and August to 37% in September. However, the vast majority of job seekers still think it will only take 2 months or less to find a new job (78-80% over the quarter).
Recent interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve have had little impact so far on inflation. As a result, the Fed is raising rates again, but many are worried that these aggressive rate hikes will send the economy into a recession and hurt the job market. While job seekers generally have plenty of opportunities in the current market, looming layoffs and recession fears are putting job seekers on edge. Only time will tell how real those job market concerns will become as we head into Q4.
We surveyed 9,971 job seekers about their outlook on the job market and expectations for the future. We surveyed 2,731 employed job seekers about their plans to leave their job and quiet quitting. We surveyed 2,109 employed job seekers about their pay history and inflation topics. We surveyed 2,679 employed job seekers about layoff concerns. Finally, we surveyed 1,421 employed job seekers about how much work they have missed this year due to vacation and COVID-19.
All 18,911 survey respondents were Joblist users in the United States. The surveys were conducted over the course of July, August, and September 2022.
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 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.
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