Job losses during the pandemic have hit workers in low-wage occupations particularly hard – something that distinguishes this downturn from the Great Recession, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. From December 2019 to December 2020, the percentage decrease in employment in low-wage occupations was more than twice as great as in middle-wage occupations (-12.5% vs. -5.3%). At the same time, employment in high-wage occupations increased marginally over this period.
The Center’s survey, conducted Jan. 19-24, finds that 49% of adults who are unemployed and looking for work say they are pessimistic they will find a job in the near future: 18% are very pessimistic about this and 31% are somewhat pessimistic. A similar share (51%) are optimistic, with 15% saying they are very optimistic and 36% saying they are somewhat optimistic.
For some, that positive outlook comes with a caveat. Among those who say they’re optimistic about finding a job, a substantial minority – 37% – say they are not too or not at all confident they will find a job that pays as much and provides the same benefits they had in their last job. Among all unemployed adults, 55% say they are not confident they’ll find a job with the same income and benefits; 45% say they are somewhat or very confident this will happen.
Not only are many unemployed adults feeling discouraged about their future job prospects, two-thirds say that, since losing their jobs, they have seriously considered changing their occupation or field of work. This sentiment is shared by lower-income unemployed adults, as well as those with middle or upper incomes. (Incomes are based on 2019 earnings.) A third of unemployed adults say they have already taken steps to retool their skills by pursuing job retraining programs or educational opportunities.
About half of U.S. adults who are currently unemployed are pessimistic about their prospects for future employment, and most say they’ve seriously considered changing fields or occupations since they’ve been unemployed. https://t.co/vGFmxJFB8o
— Pew Research Center (@pewresearch) February 12, 2021