Labor Day Survey: Americans’ Opinions on the Work Environment

People like their jobs, and it’s not just because they have one.

As we celebrate Labor Day, polls on the American workforce show a great deal of satisfaction among workers for the jobs they have. This is no surprise. People have been giving them same answer for decades.

There has been little change in the responses since survey organizations started measuring them regularly in the 1970s. Eighty-six percent of employed people said they were completely or somewhat satisfied with their jobs, according to Gallup’s latest. (A decade ago, the response was identical.) Nearly half in the survey, 44 percent, reported that they were “completely satisfied.” Only 13 percent said they were somewhat or completely dissatisfied with their jobs. Across all income breaks, at least 70 percent say they are somewhat or completely satisfied with their jobs. Results from the National Opinion Research Center on satisfaction with work have also been positive and stable over time.

And it’s not just that people are satisfied with the work they have. They are also increasingly optimistic about the work they could possibly get.

In 1998, when the University of Connecticut/Rutgers first asked if it was a good time or a bad time to find a quality job, 69 percent said it was a good time, a reflection of the country’s strong economy. Following the 2008 crash, this response fell to an all-time low of 8 percent in November 2009 and again in November 2011. Since then, confidence in finding a quality job has continued to improve. In Gallup’s August 2016 survey, 39 percent gave that response.

Why is satisfaction so persistently strong? There are probably many reasons, but jumping out is the notion of “earned success.” In other words, having a sense of purpose gives people meaning in their lives.  And put yet another way:

Earned success means defining your future as you see fit and achieving that success on the basis of merit and hard work. It allows you to measure your life’s “profit” however you want, be it in money, making beautiful music, or helping people learn English. Earned success is at the root of American exceptionalism.

Read more about the Public Opinion Study on the State of the American Worker 2016