American workers concerned about jobs despite a strong economy

Workers want a short commute, flexibility and job training, according to Prudential's Pulse of American Worker survey.

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The economy may continue to be strong, but a new study finds more than half of workers surveyed across the country are concerned about the availability of jobs in their state, while four in 10 believe there are few jobs available that meet their skill sets in their state.

In particular, almost half (46%) of workers in rural areas say their community does not have an ample number of jobs available, according to the report by Prudential Financial. In urban settings, four in 10 workers say they are concerned about job security.

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The Pulse of American Worker survey also found that six in 10 people work in the same community where they live. Gen Z workers are the most concerned about jobs in their state (61%) followed by urban workers (60%), and teleworkers (57%).

Commuting conundrum

Eighty-eight percent say they wouldn't commute more than an hour for their dream job, including 43% who say they would not commute more than 30 minutes. What would make them commute farther? Forty-three percent cite flexible working hours and the ability to control their schedules, while 33% say permission to work remotely several times a week.

The vast majority (84%) commute to work by car. Almost half of workers in low-employment states (46%) say they are more likely to move for a job, followed by millennial workers and urban workers (both at 45%).

"One of the interesting takeaways from this survey is the value that technology can have in talent retention and enablement," said Stacey Goodman, executive vice president and chief information officer at Prudential. 

Referring to the finding that nearly all workers want to work within an hour from where they live, Goodman noted that they would, however, consider commuting further if they had more flexibility. "This is an area where technology can have a major impact, and I'd encourage workers who are looking for more flexibility [to] ask their employers what options exist."

Where workers want help

When asked what workers would need to improve their job prospects and skills, 35% say help paying for training, followed by access to job training programs (33%), and more time in their day to participate in training (28%).

Workers rank community colleges and universities as most responsible for providing programs to help them build new skills, followed by the business community, and their employer.

Skill development is another area where technology can make a measurable impact for both employees and employers, Goodman said. "Workers noted the biggest barriers they face in training are cost, access, and time. Leveraging technology can help reduce these barriers and enhance the employee experience."

When it comes to determining where to live, job considerations are a low priority. Forty-eight percent of American workers rank affordability first, followed by proximity to family and friends (42%), and where they grew up (24%). Only 15% cited job opportunities.

The Pulse of the American Worker Survey was conducted in November among a national sample of 1,000 employed adults (age 18 and over) and 250 employed adults (age 18 and over) from six states; three with the lowest rates of unemployment (Idaho, Iowa, and North Dakota) and three among the highest rates of unemployment (Arizona, Michigan, and Mississippi) to reflect geographic considerations, Prudential said.

Breakdown by states with high/low unemployment

Low unemployment states:

  • Only 63% of workers in Iowa say their community is thriving, among the lowest of all states surveyed, according to Prudential. Iowa workers place greater emphasis on the quality of schools, with 19% saying that is a consideration in why they live where they do.
  • North Dakota workers are the least concerned (85%) about job availability, and 27% of workers live there for job opportunities.
  • Eight in 10 workers in Idaho say the community they live in is thriving, and more than six in 10 workers in Idaho say their community has many job opportunities

High unemployment states:

  • Workers in Mississippi are more concerned about the availability of jobs (61%) and 55% believe there are few jobs available. 
  • Four in 10 workers in Mississippi say businesses in their state are closing.
  • Half of workers in Arizona do not feel financially secure; higher than any other state.
  • Seven in 10 workers in Arizona say they have considered taking on an additional job.
  • One in five workers in Michigan say they would not be able to find a job that fits their skills in their community.
  • 94% of workers in Michigan drive to work.
  • Unemployment rates were based on the US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment report in September 2019.

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