• New Poll Shows Unemployed Workers Are More Hopeful About Finding Work

    OKLAHOMA CITY - May 10, 2017

    33% Have Given Up on Looking for Work, Down from 47% in 2014

    New High: 92% Say They're "Hopeful"

    In 4th Year of Polling, Fewer Blame the Economy, More Blame Themselves

    A Majority Has Not Had an Interview in the Past Month; 34% Report Being Unemployed for More than Two Years


    Express Employment Professionals released results from a new poll of unemployed Americans showing a greater sense of optimism about the future among the unemployed.

    The national survey of 1,500 jobless Americans age 18 and older between March 14 and April 6, 2017 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.

    According to the survey, 33 percent agree with the statement, "I've completely given up on looking for a job." While still a startling number, it is a notable improvement compared to previous years, with 43 percent saying they had "given up" in 2016, 40 percent in 2015 and 47 percent in 2014 reporting the same.

    In addition, more of the unemployed expressed hopefulness than in years past. Ninety-two percent agree with the statement, "I'm hopeful that I will find a job I really want in the next six months," compared to 87 percent in 2016, 88 percent in 2015, and 91 percent in 2014.

    Unemployment remains a chronic condition for many, though the average duration of unemployment (23.5 months) is lower than in 2016 (26.3 months) and 2015 (26.8 months) and slightly higher than in 2014 (23.2 months). Thirty percent of unemployed Americans have been out of work for three months or less, 13 percent for four to six months, 13 percent for 7-12 months, 10 percent for 13-24 months and 34 percent for more than two years.

    When asked why they are unemployed , 22 percent say they quit and 22 percent say they were laid off. This is a new low of people reporting they were laid off, compared to 2016 (23 percent), 2015 (28 percent), and 2014 (36 percent)-an encouraging trend for the economy.

    When asked who's "responsible" for their unemployment , 50 percent blame themselves and 26 percent blame the economy. This represents a continued decline in the number blaming the economy, compared to 2016 (34 percent), 2015 (37 percent), and 2014 (45 percent). This is also an increase in those blaming themselves; just 36 percent blamed themselves in 2014.

    "It's troubling that one-third of our fellow Americans who are unemployed say they have given up finding work," said Bob Funk, CEO of Express Employment Professionals and a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. "But when you look a little closer, there are signs of a positive trend from previous years; fewer have given up, more are hopeful, fewer blame the economy and fewer are unemployed due to layoffs.

    "This survey suggests that those who are jobless have a little more control over their situations or that they see an improving economy as a sign that opportunities will turn up for them." 


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

    The largest age group is the youngest age group:

    • 35 percent are ages 18-29
    • 19 percent are ages 30-39
    • 18 percent are ages 40-49
    • 16 percent are ages 50-59
    • 12 percent are 60 or older

    The majority lacks a college degree:

    • 7 percent did not complete high school 
    • 39 percent received only a high school diploma
    • 6 percent completed job-specific training after high school
    • 21 percent attended college but did not receive a degree
    • 8 percent hold an associate's degree
    • 14 percent hold a bachelor's degree
    • 2 percent attended graduate school but did not receive an advanced degree
    • 4 percent have a graduate degree

    Those with a college degree reported receiving their diplomas in the following areas:

    • 24 percent in science
    • 29 percent in liberal arts
    • 5 percent in education
    • 25 percent in business
    • 5 percent in fine arts
    • 13 percent in another area

    Forty-six percent of those with at least a college degree 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." 


    Thirty-three percent agree with the statement, "I've completely given up on looking for a job," compared to 43 percent in 2016, 40 percent in 2015, and 47 percent in 2014.

    • 6 percent agree completely
    • 5 percent agree a lot
    • 9 percent agree somewhat
    • 12 percent agree a little
    • 67 percent do not agree at all

    Of those who have been unemployed for more than two years, 53 percent agree that they have "given up."

    Still, 92 percent of all unemployed Americans agree with the statement, "I'm hopeful that I will find a job I really want in the next six months," compared to 87 percent in 2016, 88 percent in 2015, and 91 percent in 2014.

    • 38 percent agree completely
    • 23 percent agree a lot
    • 21 percent agree somewhat
    • 9 percent agree a little
    • 8 percent do not agree at all



    The unemployed reported they are putting in an average of 13.3 hours looking for work each week. That is up from 11.7 hours in 2016 and 12.9 hours in 2015 but down from 13.8 hours in 2014.

    Sixty-five percent have applied for positions that are below their job level at their previous employer, but 35 percent have not.

    The majority had no interviews in the previous month*:

    • 55 percent had been on zero interviews in the previous month
    • 13 percent had been on one
    • 14 percent had been on two
    • 8 percent had been on three
    • 4 percent had been on four
    • 2 percent had been on five
    • 3 percent had been on six to nine
    • 1 percent had been on 10 to 14

    * At the time of interviewing

    Among the job search activities unemployed Americans could choose from, the most common job search activities were online:

    • 56 percent reported visiting and researching online job boards
    • 46 percent entered search terms directly into an internet search engine
    • 44 percent visited prospective companies' websites
    • 43 percent posted resumes on major online job boards
    • 34 percent visited or researched websites that provide resume tips

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



     Average percent of job search time spent
    Researching job opportunities26.9%25.3%26.8%21.1%
    Filling out applications online25.8%23.7%21.9%17.5%
    Sending resumes12.0%11.6%12.4%10.5%
    Networking online9.2%10.5%10.2%9.4%
    Filling out applications in person6.9%8.5%9%8.3%
    Following up on resumes/applications6.8%7.2%7.6%6.7%
    Networking on the phone5.8%5.6%5.2%4.9%
    Attending professional networking events2.0%2.7%2.7%3.0%


    This study was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals and included 1,500 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 March 14 and April 6, 2017.

    Results were weighted as needed by gender for age, education, race/ethnicity, region and household income. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' penchant 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.

    Download an infographic for the release.

    Survey Methodology

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


    If you would like to arrange for an interview with Bob Funk to discuss this topic, please contact Sheena Karami, Director of Corporate Communications and PR, at (405) 717-5966.

    About Robert A. Funk

    Robert A. "Bob" Funk is chairman and chief executive officer of Express Employment Professionals. Headquartered in Oklahoma City, the international staffing company has more than 770 franchises in the U.S., Canada and South Africa. Under his leadership, Express has put more than 6 million people to work worldwide. Funk served as Chairman of the Conference of Chairmen of the Federal Reserve and was also the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

    About Express Employment Professionals

    Express Employment Professionals puts people to work. It generated $3.05 billion in sales and employed a record 510,000 people in 2016. Its long-term goal is to put a million people to work annually. For more information, visit