Giving Compass' Take:
- Latest job quality surveys reveal that the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted job satisfaction among employees who were already unhappy with their jobs.
- Why is job quality important beyond the pandemic? How will economic recovery address job quality and unemployment rates?
- Learn more about improving job quality during COVID-19.
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Last April, the coronavirus pandemic brought the longest economic expansion in American history to an abrupt and shocking halt. In just a few short months, the unemployment rate shot up from a fifty-year low of 3.5 percent in February to nearly 14.7 percent in April. A year later, many people are breathing a sigh of relief as the rate has ticked back down to 6 percent, with some taking it as a sign that America is on track to full economic recovery.
But while recent headlines may be cause for optimism, they don't tell the whole story. Using the unemployment rate to gauge the health of an economy is like putting your hand on someone's forehead to check whether they have COVID-19. It can tell you whether they're running a fever, but it doesn't provide enough data to make an accurate diagnosis.
The truth is, the unemployment rate tells us nothing about the quality of jobs, making it an inadequate metricto understand the true health of the labor market. Gallup's 2020 Great Jobs Report, which Omidyar Network supported in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation, found that more than half (52 percent) of those who were laid off during the pandemic — even if they were subsequently re-hired — reported a decline in their overall job quality as measured across eleven dimensions, including pay, benefits, stability, and safety.
First commissioned in 2019, the Great Jobs survey was groundbreaking: unlike simple "job satisfaction" metrics aimed at providing an overall sense of job satisfaction, the intent of the survey was to look under the hood of the labor market and identify trouble spots. A diverse group of more than sixty-six hundred working people were asked to define what a "good" job looks like and then assess how their own jobs stacked up against that standard. The original survey showed that less than half (40 percent) of working people in the United States believed they were employed in a good job, while one in six (16 percent) believed they were stuck in a bad job, with significant disparities by race.
The latest survey gives us a window into how the pandemic has impacted job quality. Those who started 2020 in a low-quality or "bad" job — based on their own assessments — were far more likely to have been laid off (36 percent) than those working a high-quality or "good" job pre-pandemic (23 percent). And low-wage workers with high-quality jobs in 2019 reported experiencing much lower COVID-19 risk and better employer-provided protective measures during the pandemic. The fact is, job quality matters, especially when a crisis hits.
Read the full article about job quality during COVID-19 and beyond by Tracy Williams at PhilanTopic.