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Jan 9, 2014

Question: How can you tell that the long, sluggish post-recession recovery seems to finally be picking up speed?

Answer: When a large number of employees say they’re planning to go find themselves another job.

The latest national survey from CareerBuilder, conducted online by Harris Interactive from Nov. 6 to Dec. 2, 2013, found that “21 percent of full-time employees plan to change jobs in 2014, the largest amount in the post-recession era and up from 17 percent in 2013.”

You may quibble about the numbers, or even be skeptical about the notion that the economic recovery is finally starting to gain momentum, but in my book, one in five American workers saying that they’re going to go out and find a new job is a clear sign that the economy may have finally turned the corner.

Only 59% are satisfied with their job

According to the CareerBuilder survey, which ” included a representative sample of 3,008 full-time, private sector employees across industries and company sizes,” a drop in job satisfaction may be behind the expected rise in turnover.

The research found that only 59 percent of workers indicate that they are satisfied with their jobs, down from 66 percent in 2013, with 18 percent claiming that they are out-and-out dissatisfied at work, up from 15 percent last year. Those who are dissatisfied, CareerBuilder says, “cite concerns over salary (66 percent) and not feeling valued (65 percent) most often as reasons for their dissatisfaction.”

“Offering frequent recognition, merit bonuses, training programs and clearly defined career paths are important ways to show workers what they mean to the company,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder, in a press release about the latest survey.

She added: “In general, when more workers change jobs it’s usually a sign the labor market is warming up. During the recession and in its aftermath fewer people voluntarily left jobs because the chances of finding a new or better one were low compared to a healthier economic cycle.”

The latest CareerBuilder survey had two key questions that are worth looking closer at:

  • Who is most likely to change jobs this year?
  • What are the top reasons for workers staying in their current job?

Who is most likely to change jobs in 2014?

According to the survey, certain factors appear to make workers significantly more likely to change jobs than others:

  • Workers who are dissatisfied with their job: 58 percent plan to change jobs in the New Year;
  • Workers who are dissatisfied with advancement opportunities at their current company: 45 percent;
  • Workers who are dissatisfied with their work/life balance: 39 percent;
  • Workers who feel underemployed: 39 percent;
  • Workers who are highly stressed: 39 percent;
  • Workers who have a poor opinion of their boss’s performance: 37 percent;
  • Workers who feel they were overlooked for a promotion: 36 percent;
  • Workers who have been with their company two years or less: 35 percent (compared to 13 percent of workers who’ve been with company for five or more years.);
  • Workers who didn’t receive a pay increase in 2013: 28 percent.

Top reasons for staying in jobs

For the 8 in 10 (79 percent) workers who have no intention of leaving their current job in 2014, the survey found that a variety of factors weigh into their decision, with relationships with co-workers, work/life balance and benefits topping the list:

  1. I like the people I work with.” – 54 percent;
  2. I have a good work/life balance.” – 50 percent;
  3. “I have good benefits.” – 49 percent;
  4. I make a good salary.” – 43 percent;
  5. There still is a lot of uncertainty in the job market.” – 35 percent;
  6. I have a quick commute.” – 35 percent;
  7. I have a good boss who watches out for me.” – 32 percent;
  8. “I feel valued and my accomplishments are recognized.” – 29 percent.

This CareerBuilder survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder among 3,008 workers (employed full-time, not self-employed, non-government) ages 18 and over between Nov. 6 and Dec. 2, 2013 (percentages for some questions are based on a subset, based on their responses to certain questions). With a pure probability sample of 3,008, one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall results have a sampling error of +/- 1.79 percentage points. Sampling error for data from sub-samples is higher and varies.

Pent-up demand may actually push more job seekers

While a warming job market is good news for the economy, and for workers looking for greener employment pastures, it’s not so good news for Corporate America given how unwilling they’ve been to add jobs and increase wages.

In fact, one could make the case that America’s business community has built their record profits these past few years on the fears of employees who were beaten down, and in many cases, discarded during the Great Recession and not-so-great recovery.

Whether the business community will now be willing to start investing in talent again after getting accustomed to holding down the head count and giving out 3 percent raises while profits soared remains an open question.

But, don’t be surprised at what might actually happen once workers start to move.

With so much pent-up demand after five plus years of recession and a mediocre recovery, a lot more than 20 percent of workers may actually decide to make the big leap and go find a new job.