It depends on whether you are a glass half empty or half full kind of person. If you are the latter, then you’d be pleased to know that just over half of global respondents (52%) in the third quarter of 2014 believed the job market would be good or excellent in the next 12 months, a 2 percentage-point increase from the second quarter. This modest increase follows steady but small upticks reported during the past five years since 2009 when employment sentiment dropped to an average annual low of 31% during that year.
While worldwide perceptions of personal finances have also become more positive since 2009, they have not improved as significantly as consumers’ attitudes about their employment opportunities. In the third quarter, 57% of global respondents rated their personal finances as good or excellent for the upcoming year, compared to the average annual low reported in 2009 of 46%—an 11 percentage-point increase. By contrast, the sentiment for job prospects increased 21 percentage points over the same time period.
“A longer-term trend has been the divergence between the economic fortunes of the middle class in developed markets and those in emerging markets,” said Louise Keely, senior vice president, Nielsen, and president, The Demand Institute. “In the U.S. and Western Europe, the middle has been structurally weakened while the low-wage sector has grown. There is also a growing divide between younger and older people, especially within Europe, with the former experiencing high rates of unemployment and underemployment. By contrast, the middle class grew strongly in emerging markets during the previous decade, and while recently that trend has slowed, it can still be expected to continue. Going forward, these disparities within and across countries can be expected to have a large impact on the overall level and patterns in discretionary spending.”
Regionally, North American respondents showed the most dramatic increase in job prospect expectations, as perceptions about employment opportunities rose to 55% in the third quarter—a 9-percentage-point improvement in 12 months (from 46% in Q3 2013). Positive perceptions about local job prospects increased in several other regions in the past year as well, growing by 7 percentage points in Asia-Pacific to 66%, 6 percentage points in the Middle East/Africa to 46% and 5 percentage points in Europe to 31%. Conversely, Latin America was the only region with a decline in job sentiment, dropping 8 percentage points since third quarter 2013 to 34%.
North Americans were most confident in the state of their personal finances, as expressed in a sentiment rise of 2 percentage points to 65% in the third quarter. Also showing growth were Asia-Pacific (63%), Latin America (61%) and the Middle East/Africa (57%), which increased one percentage point each. Europeans were least confident in their personal finances at 38%, a decline of 1 percentage point from the previous quarter.