The ZipRecruiter Job Seeker Confidence Survey is a nationally representative quarterly survey of U.S. job seekers that measures how optimistic or pessimistic they are about their ability to land their preferred jobs. Increased confidence is typically an indicator of future increases in employee turnover, wage growth, and labor force participation.
U.S. Job Seeker Confidence
The ZipRecruiter Job Seeker Confidence Index increased 1.5 points from 94.0 in 2023 Q2 to 95.5 in 2023 Q3 (Index: 2022 Q1 = 100), but the underlying survey was mixed. On average, job seekers became slightly more upbeat about current labor market conditions and substantially more optimistic about the medium-term economic outlook. But they also reported more financial hardship and other job search challenges.
"Rising financial stress is translating into worker demands for higher pay, but also into greater job seeker willingness to accept offers, which is simultaneously reducing wage growth pressure in slacker markets."— Julia Pollak, ZipRecruiter Chief Economist
The Q3 improvement in the overall Job Seeker Confidence Index was largely driven by improved sentiment among the highest earners, and among white and Asian job seekers. Black and Hispanic job seekers, and lower-earning job seekers, either saw no improvement or modest declines.
Optimism also diverged across red states and blue states, with blue-state job seeker confidence rising and red-state job seeker confidence declining to the lowest point since the start of the survey. Campaign season could cause perceptions of labor market conditions to become more polarized, with the 2024 election cycle now underway.
- Search durations fell overall, even as reported search difficulty rose for some job seekers. 39% of job seekers described their current job search experience as “poor”—the largest share since the start of the survey—as opposed to “fair” (46%) or good (15%). Within the largest five industries by number of respondents (retail, food, healthcare, manufacturing, and professional and business services), the shares of job seekers reporting a poor job search experience ranged from 33% in healthcare to 52% in professional and business services. There was no reported change in job search intensity, however, as measured by the number of job applications sent. There was also no accompanying increase in search or non-employment durations. On the contrary, both median and mean job search durations and non-employment durations were the lowest measured since the start of the survey.
- Financial stress rose among job seekers across demographic groups. 23% of job seekers reported facing serious financial difficulties, the highest share since the start of the survey, up from 16% last quarter and just 14% in mid-2022. The increase in reported financial difficulty was significant across all demographic groups but largest for job seekers aged 65 and older, for those aged 35 to 44, and for those with young children. 65% of all job seekers reported feeling financial pressure to take the first job offer they receive, up from 61% last quarter and by far the highest share since the start of the survey. Increased financial strain could explain the decline in job seeker sentiment amid shorter search durations if job seekers are now reluctantly accepting offers that they would have passed up were it not for financial pressure. It could also explain the modest decline in the average reservation wage—that is, the lowest wage job seekers say they would be prepared to accept—from $44,926 in Q2 to $43,664 in Q3.
- Job seeker optimism about the future outlook rose, despite challenges. Although the majority of job seekers said they feel financial pressure to accept the first offer they receive, more than 78% of job seekers said they are completely or somewhat confident that they would be able to find a job that pays more than their current or most recent job. For the first time in a year, job seekers were more likely to expect an increase than a decrease in the availability of jobs over the next six months.
Many Job Seekers Want to Change Careers and Work Arrangements, Not Just Switch Jobs
In Q3 of 2023, job satisfaction among currently employed job seekers sank to its lowest level since the start of 2022. 7 in 10 job seekers said they are open to taking jobs outside their industry, with 3 in 10 saying that they only want jobs outside their industry. Job seekers are most likely to want to exit their industry if they currently work in energy; real estate; or business support and logistics. By contrast, job seekers in financial services, tech, or healthcare are most likely to want to stay in their industry.
6 in 10 job seekers said they want more hours than their current or most recent job provides. Workers in airlines or the government were least likely to want more working hours, whereas those in advertising, real estate, food service, energy, and entertainment were most likely to be seeking more work. More than 8 in 10 job seekers who currently or most recently worked remotely want to stay in the arrangement, and almost half of those working in-person would prefer to work remotely going forward.
“If your business is seeking part-time help for the holidays, this is a great time to be proactive in reaching out. Right now, 60% of employed job seekers want more hours at work.”— Ian Siegel, ZipRecruiter CEO
The quarterly ZipRecruiter Job Seeker Confidence Survey is based on an online sample and conducted for ZipRecruiter by Qualtrics. It is administered to 2,000+ job seekers each quarter and weighted to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Respondents may be employed, unemployed, or not currently in the labor force, but they must reside in the United States and plan to find a new job “in the next six months” in order to be included in the sample.
The ZipRecruiter Index
The overall ZipRecruiter Job Seeker Confidence Index comprises four subindices:
–The Preparedness Index measures how confident job seekers feel about their job skills, education, and training, as well as about their job search skills—that is, their ability to find relevant positions, develop application materials, and interview effectively.
–The Financial Wellbeing Index measures job seekers’ financial security—that is, whether they have peace of mind about their ability to meet their financial needs, or whether they are searching for work and negotiating job offers under financial pressure.
–The Expectations Index captures job seekers’ short-term outlook for labor market conditions. It is based on questions about whether job seekers expect the number of available jobs to increase or decrease.
–The Present Situation Index is based on job seekers’ assessment of current labor market conditions. It is based on questions about whether they expect to get interviews, find a job easily, and get the job they want, and how satisfied they are with their job search.