What a Difference a (Pandemic) Year Makes: Less Concern, More Confidence Expressed by Workers as 2021 Comes to an End

Findings from a November 2021 Work Trends survey of Americans.

A new Work Trends survey of American workers, conducted by the Heldrich Center, finds that 6 in 10 are very concerned about the cost of living as 2022 approaches. In contrast, workers’ opinions about the labor market have improved substantially compared to a year ago. In late November 2021, only 13% said they are very concerned about the job market; 43% said they were very concerned in 2020. In 2020, 8 in 10 workers said they were very or somewhat concerned about job security for employed Americans (83%), compared to 5 in 10 workers in 2021 (54%). Despite these improvements, 61% of workers are still very or somewhat concerned about the current unemployment rate whereas 85% were very or somewhat concerned in 2020. Download the press release at the link below under "attachments".

Workers are clearly more optimistic about finding work today than they were a year ago: 3 in 4 workers say they agree with the statement that “it’s not hard to find a job in America if you really want to work” (75%), 4 in 10 saying they strongly agree (39%), compared to 2 in 10 (24%) in December 2020. And 3 in 4 workers say it is now a “good time” to find a quality job (73%) rather than a “bad time” (27%), an almost exact flip-flop from one year ago.

Most Americans with a full- or part-time job at the time of the survey indicated that they are not concerned about their own job security at the end of 2021. For Americans working full or part time, confidence in finding a new job if needed is significantly higher at the end of 2021 (50% versus 27% say they are extremely or very confident), compared to the end of 2020.

Despite what appears to be a positive outlook for their own work situations in the near future, workers polled in 2021 are divided on whether job, career, and employment opportunities will improve for the next generation of workers.

Other findings about workers’ attitudes at the end of 2021 include:

  • When asked to choose between two ways to describe their current job, 2 in 3 Americans working full or part time say they would describe their job as “just what they do for a living” (68%) rather than giving them “a sense of identity” (32%).
  • 6 in 10 Americans working full or part time say they are very or somewhat concerned about the global supply chain impacting their work (58%); 1 in 4 say they are very concerned (24%).