Defining the American Dream

Employment After Unemployment

Posted on Friday, September 10, 2010

Most 'Re-employed' Workers Say They're Overqualified for Their New Job
by Rich Morin, Senior Editor, Pew Research Center

Workers who suffered a spell of unemployment during Great Recession are, on average, less satisfied with their new jobs than workers who didn't. They are more likely to consider themselves over-qualified for their current position.

And six-in-ten say they changed careers or seriously thought about it while they were unemployed, according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends project.

An estimated 26% (or 36 million) of the 139 million currently employed workers in the United States suffered at least one spell of unemployment during the Great Recession that began in December, 2007.

These "re-employed workers" have a complicated mix of attitudes about their new job, according to a nationally representative survey of 2,967 conducted from May 11 to May 31, 2010.

Only 38% of the re-employed say they are being paid more now than at their former job and just 28% say their current benefits are better. At the same time, however, a plurality of the re-employed (43%) say overall their new job is better than their old one -- perhaps reflecting a sense of relief at being back at work after a spell of unemployment.

These judgments differ by how long the worker was unemployed. More than half (53%) of those who were out of work for less than six months say their current job is better than their old one compared with 36% of those who were unemployed six months or longer.

Overall, nearly eight-in-ten re-employed workers say they are satisfied with their current job. But the job satisfaction share is even higher -- 89% -- among workers who did not suffer a spell of unemployment during the recession.

Moreover, the reemployed are more likely to feel overqualified for their current position than those who did not lose a job (54% vs. 36%).

The Great Recession has been a financial and emotional roller coaster ride for the re-employed.

A majority of the re-employed (55%) report their family is worse off financially now than before the recession started. More than a third (35%) report they have had to make major changes in their lifestyle because of the bad economy; by contrast, just 20% of Americans who didn't lose their job during the recession say the same. While they were out of work, six-in-ten of the re-employed seriously thought about switching fields; four-in-ten considered moving to an area where jobs were more plentiful and nearly as many went back to school or enrolled in job-retraining.

While they differ in terms of their attitudes toward their present jobs, there are relatively few demographic differences between re-employed workers and those who did not lose their jobs during the recession. And for some workers, finding a new job was a short-lived victory over hard times. According to the survey, more than a third have suffered two or more spells of unemployment during the recession, including 16% who have been out of work three or more times.

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Judith 12/19/2011
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