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Back to Work but Unhappy: When Finding a Job Isn't Enough

Laid off woman
Laid off woman

More than a quarter of American workers were unemployed at some point during the recession, but the new jobs they found haven't always turned out to be as satisfying as the ones they left behind, according to the results of a recent Pew Research Center survey.

Pew's study comes as the latest report on the jobs market show the labor market beginning to head in the right direction, with fewer jobs lost in Augustand private sector hiring increasing.

"A lot of folks are getting jobs, and that's a good thing, but the bad thing is that they are less satisfied," said Rich Morin, a senior editor at Pew Research Center.

At the moment, job growth remains anemic, rising far less than is needed to keep up with the normal growth of the labor force, let alone try to fill in the gap of the jobs lost during the recession, which began at the end of 2007.

The economic downturn has resulted in the longest bout of long-term unemployment since World War II, with nearly 45 percent of the nation's jobless unemployed for at least six months.

The Pew studydigs into the financial and emotional upheaval that results from job loss and long-term unemployment.

About 26 percent of the nation's 139 million currently employed workers were unemployed at some point during the recession. Of those, the majority—some 55 percent—said their families are now worse off than they were before the recession hit.

More than a third, or about 35 percent, of those re-employed workers said their new situation has forced them to change their lifestyle. By contrast, just 20 percent of the Americans who didn't lose their job during the recession say the same.

What's worse is that more than one-third of those surveyed have even suffered more than two periods of unemployment during the recession, and one in six lost a job three or more times.

Among those who suffered multiple job losses, there is a sense of "desperation," Morin said.

That group also appears to be disproportionally dissatisfied with their current job.

During their job searches, many workers spent time re-thinking their careers and re-organizing their lives. Many thought about moving, and asked themselves if they were working in the right occupation.

Once settled in a new job, more than four in 10 workers said their new jobs were better than their old ones. Nearly two in 10 said they were higher paid, and just over a quarter said they had better benefits than in their previous jobs.

This report suggests that even if the labor market improves there will continue to be a great deal of turmoil in the job market for years to come.

"If the economy really starts moving, you might see increased job mobility," Morin said. "People may want to shed those jobs they took just to be working."

"Alternatively, if the economy remains stuck in neutral, at best, you can see this becoming more widespread—this broad and growing dissatisfaction. What happens to these people who found a job and aren't particularly happy?" Morin said.

The result may be a work force with much lower morale and less loyalty to their employers.

One sign that this is already beginning to occur is that many of the re-employed people who were surveyed were less likely to get a sense of identify from their work.

That's a significant change in mindset, according to Morin.

"There is a new normal there, the question is whether it is temporary or permanent," Morin said.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com

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