Why job quality matters for workers and employers


Jessica King

Construction worker cutting wood in outside workspace

What characteristics define a “good job”? Does your current position meet the criteria? How does your current role differ from your first job?

The Good Jobs Champions Group, brought together by the Families and Workers Fund and the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program, defines “good jobs” in terms of economic stability, economic mobility, equity, respect, and voice:

  • Economic stability: Does the job offer adequate pay, health benefits, and a reliable working schedule?   
  • Economic mobility: Does the job follow fair hiring practices and support opportunities to grow one’s career and wealth?  
  • Equity, respect, and voice: Does the workplace have a culture that supports its employees by encouraging accountability, advancing diversity and inclusion, and empowering employees to improve their workplace? 

Advantages such as an available retirement plan, the option to join a union, and a safe, healthy, and accessible workplace are also characteristics of “good jobs.” Those in the workforce industry call this job quality. While resignations and job openings have declined from the all-time highs in 2021 and earlier this year, they remain elevated. The Cleveland Fed’s Kyle Fee wondered if job quality affects workers’ mobility. Specifically, Fee looked at how job quality affects occupational mobility, or how the quality of a worker’s job relates to one of four outcomes:

  • Staying in the same job
  • Becoming unemployed
  • Leaving the labor force (via retirement, for example)
  • Changing jobs
Quality jobs are attainable

Fee finds that one of the main avenues to job quality is through education. The more education a worker has, the more likely that worker will stay in the labor force and move up the ladder.

Workers in certain industry sectors are more likely to move into higher-quality jobs, too; workers in construction, manufacturing, utilities, finance, insurance and real estate are all more than 20% more likely than workers in the public sector to move into a higher-quality occupation.

Workers are more likely to find job quality in some industries. Those in construction and manufacturing, for example, tend to experience better job quality. The same is true for workers in utilities, finance, insurance, and real estate. In other industries, opportunities for moving into a higher-quality job may be limited for workers, such as retail and food services.

Limited doesn’t have to mean unattainable. You can apply skills learned from a lower-quality job to a higher-quality position. The Occupational Mobility Explorer helps users do just that. The tool, created by the Philadelphia and Cleveland Feds, enables you to see how the skills you already have relate to better paying, but similar, jobs.

The Atlanta Fed’s Rework America Alliance is another initiative that prioritizes workers’ skills. Through resources for workers, worker-facing organizations, and employers, the alliance is focused on helping unemployed workers move into the workforce and support workers moving from low-wage roles into better jobs.  

Job quality benefits everyone

It’s clear that job quality impacts workers’ lives tremendously. High-quality jobs give workers financial stability and contribute to their well-being. The Fed knows that workers need jobs that provide both stability and mobility.  

But good jobs affect employers, too. By focusing on the elements that contribute to job quality, Fee notes, employers can improve hiring and retention challenges.

Fee’s least surprising finding? With job quality comes worker retention. In fact, 92.3% of workers in highest-quality jobs stay in those occupations.

The Good Jobs Initiative, spearheaded by the United States Departments of Commerce and Labor, shares this sentiment: “Many companies recognize that providing good quality jobs…creates a clear competitive advantage when it comes to recruitment, retention, and execution of a company’s mission.”   

Job quality matters—to both workers and employers. 

Two men and two women in focus group conversation

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Explore Your Options

Can your current career skills land you a higher-paying job?

The Occupational Mobility Explorer tool helps you identify transferable job skills and explore career opportunities in your community

Written by

  • Jessica King

    Jessica King is a senior manager in the Supervision, Regulation and Credit department at the Richmond Fed and a guest writer for Fed Communities.