New Report: Has the Pandemic Changed What Workers Expect from Jobs?

Posted by Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia on May 30, 2023

Not all workers have benefited from a tight labor market — one in which workers are in high demand. Some sent 100 job applications without hearing back. Others dealt with heavy workloads to make up for labor shortages. Many struggled to find stable jobs.

The result? Workers have shifted what they expect from a job.

This is what we heard from many of the 175 workers across 33 states as part of the Federal Reserve’s Worker Voices Project. The project, led by the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and Atlanta, looked beyond employment numbers to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on how workers perceive and navigate employment, and what they expect from a job.

From May through September 2022, through conversations with workers and job seekers without a four-year college degree, researchers found:

  • Workers weighed complex choices during the pandemic, balancing health and safety concerns, financial stability, caregiving demands, and other barriers to working.
  • Not all workers benefited from the tight labor market. Many described heavy workloads and burnout. Others had trouble finding a job.
  • Many workers expect higher-quality jobs. And it’s about more than just compensation.
  • Many workers are reinventing themselves — by pursuing education, for example — to improve their career opportunities.

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