News Bureau | ILLINOIS

CHAMPAIGN, Illinois – A team of labor experts from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has developed a metric to measure job quality across the state of Illinois. The results are a mix of positive and negative news for Illinois workers.

Dubbed the “Employment Quality of Illinois,” the indicator is based on research that compared data collected from more than 3,500 Illinois workers in the fall of 2021 — an extension of a pre-COVID-19 survey conducted in the fall of 2019.

“The importance of job quality was highlighted by the labor market conditions of the 2020-21 pandemic era, when frontline workers and essential workers were hailed as ‘heroes’ by their employers and the public, yet faced persistent workplace health and safety risks, unpredictable working hours and insufficient or excessive hours worked,” said Robert Bruno, an Illinois professor of labor and employment relations and a co-author of the study.

On a scale of 0 to 10, the average Illinois worker rated their own job quality at a 6.8. Overall, a quarter of Illinois workers rated their job quality as very good — a 9 or 10 on the scale — while more than a quarter of workers rated their job quality as low or very low. According to the study, union members rated their job quality almost a full point higher than non-union workers.

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The study also found that about 63% of all part-time workers were underemployed and only 29% were satisfied with their hours. Among full-time employees, around 44% were satisfied with their working hours.

The indicator consisted of seven core dimensions, each with associated components. They included subjective and objective measures of job satisfaction, life satisfaction, worker health and well-being, work-life balance, conflict and integration.

The results also paint a more difficult employment picture for women, single parents, racial and ethnic minorities and workers with disabilities.

“These groups tend to have less access to quality jobs,” Bruno said. “They tend to have lower-benefit jobs than partner parents, males, white workers and workers without disabilities. While these workers are already disadvantaged in the labor market, their lack of benefits makes them even more vulnerable to precarious working conditions and economic hardship.”

The job market recovery following the COVID-19 shutdowns has only made more evident both the deteriorating working conditions and the importance of improving a range of job characteristics in order to improve workers’ actions to improve job quality, Bruno said.

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“Our report argues that the focus must be on the quality of the employment relationship and job content,” said Bruno. “The future of work depends on both the prevalence and availability of jobs, but also what makes a job inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The so-called “Big Layoff” that followed seemed about burnout, or retirement, but was actually more about worker mobility—their ability to find jobs that offered better working conditions than their previous job.

“It is therefore crucial that attention is paid to the underlying factors of quality employment and jobs.”

The implications of the study suggest that the state of Illinois should officially adopt the indicator’s seven components as its statewide measure of job quality and track those numbers annually, Bruno said.

“Public agencies should allocate taxpayers’ money to private employers based on companies creating or improving the quality of their jobs,” he said. “Ideally, the state of Illinois should require most employers to collect and report data on these job quality metrics to the state, and the state should produce annual reports on the trends in these metrics and the associated outcomes for workers and labor markets.”

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In order to significantly increase the participation rate and the well-being of workers, the development of work and job quality in the COVID-19 era must not be left to market mechanisms alone, said Bruno.

“Large work is a social convention dependent on public policy,” he said. “This research is an investment in the belief that solid research and evidence can inform improved policy-making to achieve better outcomes for working people.”

Bruno’s co-authors are Dylan Bellisle, Alison Dickson, Peter Fugiel, and Larissa Petrucci of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; and Lonnie Golden of Pennsylvania State University.

A data dashboard showing the results of the study is available at

The paper is part of the Project for Middle Class Renewal, a research-based initiative tasked with examining labor market institutions and policies in today’s economy while stimulating public discourse on issues affecting workers. The project is led by Bruno.

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