The FINANCIAL — For the first time since Gallup began tracking the question in 2001, a majority of Americans (54%) say it is a “good time” to find a quality job. This is up slightly from 50% in January, which was then a new high.
Before last month, the highest optimism Gallup had recorded about the nation’s job climate was 48% in January 2007. Optimism soon plunged, falling to 33% by January 2008 and to a record-low 8% by November 2009 as the country grappled with the global economic crisis. That same year, the unemployment rate in the U.S. hit a 26-year high of 10.2% in October.
Gallup’s latest reading of job market optimism, based on a Feb. 1-5 poll, coincides with improved perceptions among American workers about hiring activity in their own places of employment. Federal data affirm these employee reports, as the U.S. unemployment rate has remained at or below 5% for 17 consecutive months.
Additionally, Gallup has recorded a boost in economic confidence, largely attributable to improved views among Republicans since President Donald Trump was elected.
Similarly, after November’s election, Republicans became markedly more likely to say that it is a good time to find a quality job, and this figure has increased each month since the election, including a 20-percentage-point surge in February — the first poll conducted after Trump’s inauguration. Currently, 64% of Republicans say it is a good time to find a job, more than twice as high as the 24% who held this view before the election, according to Gallup.
Democrats, however, became much less likely to express optimism for the U.S. job market in February, sliding 10 points to 45% since President Barack Obama left office last month. Still, Democrats remain relatively positive about job conditions, and much more positive than Republicans were before the election when a Democrat was in the White House.
Americans’ outlook for the job market is the highest Gallup has recorded in monthly measurements since 2001. This is largely because rank-and-file Republicans’ outlooks have brightened considerably since Trump won the election, while Democrats’ expectations have not completely deteriorated. This could either be because Democrats can’t fully dismiss recent positive monthly job figures or because they still credit the Obama administration’s policies for the current health of the job market.
People’s optimism is affected by the political lens through which they view the country’s economic health. However, the overall trend in the quality job measure has generally tracked with official statistics about how the job market is doing, including the severe drop after the Great Recession and the improved outlook in recent years as unemployment has reached the lowest point in a decade. As such, whether perceptions of the job market remain high or even improve will likely depend on the trajectory of the job market moving forward.