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Job Satisfaction Reaches Three-Decade High, Producer Prices Edge Up, Unemployment Claims Rise

Job Satisfaction Reaches Three-Decade High, Producer Prices Edge Up, Unemployment Claims Rise

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Job Satisfaction Reaches Three-Decade High

Job satisfaction among U.S. workers reached its highest level of the past 35 years in the latest survey findings of the Conference Board, though sentiments expressed in the economic research group’s 2022 report pre-date a series of mass layoffs that have rocked technology and other industries so far in 2023.

The New York-based organization said this week its latest annual survey found 62.3% of workers were satisfied with their jobs in 2022, besting the 60.2% figure for 2021 and 56.8% for 2020. The 2022 number is also the highest since the Conference Board began tracking worker satisfaction in 1987.

Among 26 satisfaction categories tracked, researchers said the largest gains for 2022 came in “experience of work” factors including work/life balance, size of workloads and performance review processes. There were also significant gains from the prior year for compensation and benefit components such as health plans, bonus plans and programs geared to education and job training.

In a nod to pandemic trends now becoming normalized, workers who registered the highest levels of satisfaction in 2022 included those who were working in hybrid roles that allowed them to mix remote work with in-person office duties. The highly satisfied group also included workers who voluntarily switched jobs during the pandemic to pursue work that was more fulfilling or better fit their lifestyles.

“Job satisfaction is at the highest level since our survey began more than three decades ago, largely due to a tight labor market and more flexible work arrangements,” the Conference Board said in a statement. “Despite predictions of a mild recession in 2023, the labor market is expected to remain tight.”

The group said employers will need to continue offering enticements to attract and retain workers, in a climate where the Labor Department reported the national unemployment rate hit a 50-year low of 3.4% in April. That’s in spite of announced layoffs so far in 2023 totaling more than 337,000, an increase of more than 300% from the first four months of 2022, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Producer Prices Edge Up

April’s U.S. producer prices for goods and services, which factor into consumer prices, rose 0.2% from the prior month and 2.3% from a year earlier. The Labor Department reported Thursday that non-residential real estate rents spurred much of the increase in the cost of services.

Categories contributing most to rising prices for goods in April included gasoline, up 8.4%, with vegetables, carbon steel scrap, aircraft and aircraft equipment also among items moving higher. Chicken eggs posted a big drop of nearly 38% for the month. Prices also declined for items such as jet fuel and light trucks.

On the services side, the government said non-residential real estate rent rose 2.4% for the month, accounting for about one-fifth of the overall U.S. rise in costs for services.

Other services seeing costs rise for the month included loan services, portfolio management, and food and alcohol wholesaling, while costs declined for categories including long-distance cargo transportation and other services tied to retailing of building materials and supplies.

Residential construction material costs declined 0.2% overall in April from the prior month, despite a rise in lumber prices, and were down 0.8% from a year earlier. While the general downward trend is bringing relief to single-family and multifamily builders, the National Association of Home Builders trade group noted Thursday that material costs overall are still nearly 24% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Unemployment Claims Rise

Initial claims in the U.S. for unemployment insurance totaled 264,000 in the week that ended May 6, up 22,000 from the prior week and the highest level since the week ended Oct. 30, 2021, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The four-week moving average for initial claims was 245,250, an increase of 6,000 from the previous week and the highest four-week average since the period that ended Nov. 20, 2021, when the average was 249,250.

The government said continued jobless claims in all programs, tracked on a more delayed basis, totaled about 1.7 million for the week that ended April 22. That marked a decline of 63,903 from the prior week but was higher than the 1.4 million claims in the comparable week of 2022.

The employment market generally remains tight, with companies in many industries struggling to fill vacant positions, though layoffs have mounted this year in industries such as technology, financial services and healthcare. Companies announcing planned layoffs this week included hospital operator Ochsner Health and chipmaker Intel, with Microsoft adding to prior planned job cuts.

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