New Poll Explores Plight of Unemployed in the U.S.


Express Employment Professionals recently released results from a new Harris Poll of unemployed Americans, which, for the third year in a row, shows that a significant number of Americans have completely given up looking for work. Many, 83%, also believe the U.S. economic system benefits the rich.

This year’s survey indicates that unemployment is becoming a chronic condition. More than half, 51%, reported they haven’t been on a job interview since 2014, and 40% of the unemployed reported being out of work for more than 24 months. In addition, 40 percent said that they expected their search to be difficult, but “it’s been more difficult than I thought.”

The survey of 1,513 jobless Americans age 18 and older between May 5 and May 16, 2016 was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Express and offers a detailed, in-depth look at the background and attitudes of the unemployed.

In an encouraging sign for the economy, 22% said the reason they are unemployed is because they quit their jobs, up from 15% in 2014. In contrast, 32% reported they were laid off or downsized, down from 36% in 2014.

Almost half, 48%, blame themselves for being unemployed, up from 36% who blamed themselves in 2014. The percentage who blame the economy has dropped to 34% from 45% in 2014.

“This is a tale of two economies,” said Bob Funk, CEO of Express, and a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. “Those with skills and jobs are seeing a slow but steady recovery from the days of the Great Recession. But far too many are still being left behind, a fact often masked by a declining unemployment rate and a low labor force participation rate.

“It’s frightening to see this many people who could work say they have given up. The country can’t afford to let this many people fall behind. We clearly also need to equip people with the skills required for the jobs that are available.”

According to the survey, 55% of the unemployed are men; 45% are women.

The largest group of the unemployed is the youngest age group:

  • 33% are ages 18-29
  • 20% are ages 30-39
  • 17% are ages 40-49
  • 18% are ages 50-59
  • 12% are 60 or older

The majority lack a college degree:

  • 6% did not complete high school
  • 38% received only a high school diploma
  • 8% completed job-specific training after high school
  • 22% attended college but did not receive a degree
  • 8% hold an associate degree
  • 13% hold a bachelor’s degree
  • 4% have a graduate degree

Of those with at least a college degree, 52% agreed with the statement, “I wish I focused on a vocational career (e.g., automotive technology, electrician, plumber, HVAC specialist, dental assisting, medical assisting, etc.) rather than getting my college degree.” Twenty-four percent agreed “completely” or “a lot” with the statement.

Forty-three percent agree with the statement, “I’ve completely given up on looking for a job,” compared to 40% in 2015 and 47% in 2014.

  • 8% agree completely
  • 5% agree a lot
  • 13% agree somewhat
  • 16%t agree a little
  • 57% do not agree at all

Of those who have been unemployed for more than two years, 59% agree that they have “given up.”

Even though minimum wage jobs may be available, the majority of the unemployed do not apply for them. Sixty-six percent agree with the statement “I don’t apply for jobs that offer minimum wage because it’s just not enough to pay the bills.”

  • 20% say they agree “completely”
  • 12% agree “a lot”
  • 17% agree “somewhat”
  • 17% agree “a little”
  • 34% do not agree at all

Respondents were also asked to weigh in on the idea of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and its impact on the number of available jobs.

  • 20%  said it would create more jobs
  • 27% said it would have no impact
  • 52% said it would decrease the number of jobs

The unemployed reported they are putting in an average of just over a full day (11.7 hours) looking for work each week. That is down from a high of 13.8 hours in 2014 and 12.9 hours in 2015.

Sixty-three percent have applied for positions that are below their job levels at their previous employers, but 37% have not.

The majority have had no job interviews since 2014. The survey asked, “When was the last time you went on an interview?”

  • 51% said 2014 or before
  • 6% said Jan., Feb., March 2015
  • 5% said April, May, June 2015
  • 9% said July, August, Sept. 2015
  • 8% said Oct., Nov., Dec. 2015
  • 18% said Jan., Feb., March 2016
  • 3% said April, May 2016

Among the job search activities respondents could choose from, the most common job search activities are online:

  • 49% reported visiting and researching online job boards
  • 41% visit prospective companies’ websites
  • 40% enter search terms directly into an internet search engine
  • 38% post resumes on major online job boards
  • 30% t visit or research websites that provide resume tips

The unemployed spend most of their time filling out applications online. Respondents were asked to report what percentage of their job search time they spent on various activities:













More than half are unwilling to move to another state to find work. Respondents were asked, “How willing are you to consider relocating to another state to find a job?”

  • 4% already did
  • 35% say they are willing
  • 61% say “not at all willing”

In 2015, 61% said they were unwilling and in 2014, 60 percent were unwilling.

The unemployed are split on which presidential candidate “will have the most impact in creating jobs.”

  • 25% say Hillary Clinton
  • 24% say Bernie Sanders
  • 24% say Donald Trump
  • 21% say none of the above

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders are Donald Trump are virtually tied as the preferred presidential candidate among unemployed Americans. Respondents were asked, “Regardless of the outcome of the primaries, if the presidential election was held today, who would you vote for?”

  • 27% chose Hillary Clinton
  • 26% chose Bernie Sanders
  • 23% chose Donald Trump
  • 19% chose none of the above


This study was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals and included 1,513 U.S. adults aged 18 or older who are unemployed but capable of working (whether or not they receive unemployment compensation benefits). Excluded are those who are currently retired, choose to stay at home or are unable to work due to long-term disability. The survey was conducted between May 5 and May 17, 2016.

Results were weighted as needed for age by gender, education, race/ethnicity, region and household income. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. Totals may not equal the sum of their individual components due to rounding. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.

Survey Methodology

  • Memo from Harris Poll – PDF
  • Study by Harris Poll – PDF


One Response to New Poll Explores Plight of Unemployed in the U.S.

  1. Berita akurat January 18, 2017 at 7:34 am #

    Thank you

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