Americans are Divided on How They Rate the Job Market in Their Region

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Roughly four in ten U.S. adults (39%) perceive the

current job market in their region of the nation as very or somewhat bad, while the remainder of Americans are evenly split between describing it as very/somewhat good and saying that it's neither good nor bad (31% each). These results are consistent with those seen in January, when 38% believed their regions job market was bad, 30% good, and 32% neither good nor bad.

While positive perceptions of Americans' regional job markets haven't changed measurably since the beginning of the year, it's worth noting that being on par with January's ratings is no mean feat. In fact, the percentage of Americans seeing a sunny job market outlook in their region represents substantial growth over previous years – from 10% roughly five years ago (June 2010) to 26% just shy of a year ago (August 2014) to 31% today.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,273 adults surveyed online between July 15 and 20, 2015. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here.

Since this is a regional outlook, it's of course important to examine the results according to geography:

  • Positive attitudes toward regional job markets are strongest in the South and the West (34% each, vs. 29% in the Midwest and 23% in the East).

  • Easterners are the most pessimistic about the job market in their region, with 46% describing it as bad (vs. 38% each in the Midwest and South, and 33% in the West).

Additionally, men (35%) are more likely than women (27%) to rate the job market in their region positively.

It's tough to get a read on whether President Obama is getting any credit for improved attitudes on the jobs market. As seen in a Harris Poll released earlier today, just under four in ten Americans (38%) give the President positive ratings for the job he's doing on the U.S. economy, in between last month's 36% and May's 39%. Looking year over year though, the President's ratings in this area have grown substantially – from 30% in July 2014 to 38% this month.

Looking ahead
More Americans believe the job market in their region will improve in the next six months (26%) than get worse (18%), but a 56% majority of U.S. adults aren't expecting movement in either direction, indicating that they expect the job market in their region to remain the same.

There appears to be an element of mindset – even self-affirmation – at work in these attitudes:

  • Those describing the job market in their region as good are especially likely to believe it's going to get better in the next six months (53%, vs. 7% of those who rate it bad and 21% of those rating it neither good nor bad).

  • Similarly, those with negative attitudes toward their region's job market currently (37%) are especially likely to feel it will get worse in the next six months (4% good, 9% neither).

  • Many Americans, regardless of mindset on the current state of their region's job market, expect it to remain the same in the next six months, but this is an especially strong perception among those who have a neutral attitude toward the job market currently (69%). Meanwhile, 43% of those who think the market is good and 55% who think the market is bad expect it to stay as is.

Americans also show divergent attitudes regarding their expectations of their regional job markets by region:

  • Americans in the South and West are most likely to expect their job markets to improve (30% each, vs. 20% East and 19% Midwest).

  • Looking more specifically at the South, Americans in this region are the most polarized on what the coming months will bring. In addition to being among the regions most prone toward optimism (as cited above), those in the South are also among those most likely (along with those in the Midwest) to expect the job market will get worse in the next six months (22% Midwest and 21% South, vs. 17% East and 13% West). Southerners are also the group least likely to believe the job market is likely to remain the same over the next six months (49%, vs. 63% East, 58% Midwest and 57% West).

Millennials are more likely than their elders to anticipate that the job market will improve in their region (31%, vs. 24% Gen Xers, 22% baby Boomers and 25% Matures).

Looking at gender differences, Men (30%) are more likely than women (22%) to expect the market will improve, while women (59% vs. 52% of men) are more likely to expect that it will remain the same.