Research: Inflation, Gas Prices Heavily Impacting U.S. Employment Landscape and Sentiment

New study found that a significant percentage of U.S. employees surveyed are seeking ways to supplement their incomes and opportunities for preferred work arrangements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics recently released a report1 that found consumer prices are 8.6% higher year over year compared to 2021-the largest 12-month increase since the period ending December 1981. With cost of living at a 40-year high, consumers are feeling the budgetary strain. And it’s significantly impacting their shopping behaviors, workplace preferences and employer expectations.

Businesses today are not only faced with a tight labor market, but are also feeling the force of current economic challenges. To better understand how the economy is influencing Americans’ employment decisions and inform our partners and other businesses about how to circumvent roadblocks in hiring, retention and engagement, we conducted new research2. The survey of more than 3,200 Americans ages 18+ directly asked respondents about their sentiments toward the economy and how these opinions are impacting employer and professional expectations and behaviors.

The feedback was loud and clear. Nearly three quarters of respondents are worried about gas prices (72%), inflation (71%) and cost of living expenses like groceries (63%). To offset these concerns, more than half of working respondents are supplementing their incomes and nearly 40% are seeking new employment opportunities that offer higher pay and/or flexibility in their work arrangement (e.g., remote, hybrid). And as back-to-work policies continue to unfold and employee loyalty remains volatile, approximately half of respondents reported that although they’d prefer incentives to work in-person, they aren’t offered any.

Here are other noteworthy findings:

  • Confidence in employers’ success is low. When asked how their companies are faring in the current economy, only 20% of respondents believe their company is on solid ground. Respondents working in-person are significantly less likely to believe their company is faring well compared to hybrid and fully-remote employees (16% versus 27% and 25% respectively). In-person, full-time respondents are also more likely to cite that they are shorthanded and/or experiencing high turnover.
  • Gas prices are fueling concern that carries over into the workplace. American workers surveyed are overwhelmingly concerned about fuel prices-particularly those who travel to work and have to fill up their gas tanks more frequently. Respondents who work in-person full-time most concerned about gas prices (78%), but hybrid workers (71%) and those who work remotely full-time (65%) also share concern.
  • Employers can help offset their employees’ increased stress over gas prices-and drive loyalty in the process. Nearly half of employees surveyed working in-person full-time or in a hybrid capacity would feel like their employer cared about them if they were to receive a one-time gas reward for their commute to and from work-as would 31% of full-time remote employees, who could use the stipend at their discretion. In order for employees to believe the gas reward is valuable, full-time in-person employees surveyed would want to receive, on average, $349, hybrid workers would want $414 and fully remote employees would want $388.
  • People are moonlighting to offset inflation. More than half (56%) of working respondents are taking on additional income-driving activities. A quarter of those working in-person full-time are working overtime to supplement their income, whereas hybrid and fully remote respondents (22% and 23%, respectively) are supplementing their income by freelancing on the side. A quarter of those working fully remotely are also supplementing their income by working side jobs (i.e. babysitting/nannying, mowing lawns).
  • Americans are seeking greener pastures. Nearly 40% of respondents are actively seeking new employment opportunities that offer a higher salary and/or more flexibility in the ability to work remotely in some capacity.
  • Lack of incentives is negatively impacting in-person working experiences. Nearly half of respondents working in-person full-time do not receive any incentives to do so, but would be more willing to if they were offered a higher salary (39%), a four-day work week (28%), paid time off (27%) and more flexibility in their working hours (22%). Receiving a higher salary and the ability to work a four-day work week would be key loyalty-drivers for half and one third of respondents, respectively, and if offered those benefits by a recruiter, the same percentages of respondents would be enticed to leave their current employer.
  • People don’t want swag or parties to return to the office. Very few respondents reported that they would feel inclined or more willing to return to in-person work if offered the following incentives: their own office (11%), a breakroom with sources of entertainment (9%), free merchandise (8%) and welcome back parties (7%).
  • Younger working Americans are concerned about job security. Four in 10 respondents ages 18 to 29 reported that they are concerned about their employment situation and job security.

“Americans are experiencing one of the most challenging economies of our lifetime, and it’s significantly impacting where they work, their preferred work arrangements and how they feel about their employer,” said Jeff Haughton, SVP, Incentives, Corporate Development & Strategy at Blackhawk Network. “It’s no surprise that inflation, gas prices and skyrocketing cost of living are driving a desire for higher salaries among working Americans. More than ever, the need for competitive wages, cost of employee turnover and premium on talent are driving businesses to find more creative ways to drive loyalty, incentivize in-person work and build engagement. Skip the flashy office renovations, over-hyped parties and company swag. People want practical incentives, rewards and benefits from their employers to help survive this economic crisis, relieve stress and structure ideal working arrangements. Remote and hybrid work options, four-day workweeks, flexible hours, and even gas stipends are less expensive but impactful ways to retain employees by showing you care and value their contributions to your business.”

Our previous research3 found that fewer than one in five respondents are satisfied with their jobs, and many will leave their current jobs for an employer that does a better job of giving recognition and rewarding them. One way employers can step up their efforts to combat existing economic challenges, recognize employees, and empathize with them is to help offset surging gas prices via prepaid rewards. To learn more about how to set up and execute an employee loyalty program that incorporates gas card rewards, read more here.

1TED: The Economics Daily” is a daily report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics that reports on key measures of the U.S. economy. The June 14, 2022 report was accessed June 29, 2022.

2 “Inflation (and More)” is an internet-based survey conducted by Survey Monkey on behalf of Blackhawk Network in June 2022. The sample size included 3,206 U.S. respondents ages 18+.

3Workplace Arrangements, Rewards, and Engagement Survey” is an internet-based survey conducted by Survey Monkey on behalf of Blackhawk Network between February 25, 2022 and March 1, 2022. The sample size included 3,278 U.S. respondents ages 18+.

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