One-third of underemployed Americans have had to take a job at a lower skill level

September 19, 2013


Chicago (September 19, 2013) — High underemployment may be the new normal in America as a new report from Mintel reveals some 31% of Americans describe their current employment situation as under- or unemployed. Among adults who are underemployed, more than one-third (34%) of those working full time have had to take a position at a lower skill level.

Some 7% of Americans working full-time have taken a job with a lower skill in order to have employment. In addition, 5% are involuntarily working part-time rather than full-time and 2% were forced to retire. Many workers (17%) say their take-home pay is less today than it was a few years ago. This rate is highest for adults 45-54, at an age when they should be at their peak earning power and have the greatest expenses (children living at home or in college).

“Unemployment and underemployment are driven by a number of factors including the rate of economic growth, job creation, the amount of government spending, structural changes in the labor force, and skills, occupational or locational mismatches,” says Fiona O’Donnell, lifestyles and leisure analyst at Mintel. “It may be easy to dismiss these adults as ‘down and out,’ but the millions of underemployed represent a market opportunity. Although their earnings power may be compromised, they still need goods and services. Companies that offer good value and treat these consumers with respect can reap the rewards over the long run, netting a loyal customer.”

Regardless of employment status, most Americans share the same attitudes about debt. Indeed, 69% of all respondents and 74% of those under- or unemployed say it is dangerous to go into debt. In addition, most  agree on how to manage debt responsibly—as some 84% of all respondents and 82% of those under- or unemployed say it is important to pay more than the minimum amount when paying off debt and about 81% of all Mintel respondents say it is important to make sacrifices in order to pay off debt.

“Marketing to the under- and unemployed requires tact and sensitivity in order not to remind those in this situation that they are living on the edge or to make them feel less deserving than others. The likely reward for providing products and services of value during this time of need is a loyal customer for the long run.

In addition to using traditional and online advertising (judiciously to lower marketing expenses and pass the savings on to the consumer) and social media, the focus of marketing attention should be on providing promotional pricing. The under- and unemployed are highly price sensitive and seek out sales. Coupons, sales circulars (physical or digital), special offers, deals on Groupon, Facebook, and other deal sites and creating value brands can all be effective strategies,” concludes Fiona O’Donnell.


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