Worryingly low numbers of U.S workers love their jobs, meaning the gradual end of the recession could lead to the return of an explosive war for talent as employees finally become confident enough to turn their backs on wherever they have sheltered during the recession.
A poll of more than 2,000 workers by recruitment firm Adecco has reported a sharp dip in the number of workers feeling grateful and appreciative to be in their job during the recession, down from more than half a year ago to just under four out of 10 now.
Workers were also becoming less afraid of the prospect of redundancy, with 17 per cent saying they would be prepared to work harder to avoid layoffs and 19 per cent prepared to put in longer hours, against 20 per cent and 21 per cent at this point last year.
Broken down generationally, the gap becomes even more marked. Among younger, Generation Y workers, more than a quarter said they loved their job less than last year, up some 10 per cent on those who felt that way last year.
In fact, 17 per cent of Generation Y and a fifth of Generation X workers were thinking about jumping ship and going back to school or college.
If given the chance to start again and change profession, more than half of workers said they would do so, particularly older Generation X employees.
Workers were also feeling less appreciative of their managers, with just seven per cent agreeing that the economic situation had positively affected their confidence in their executive team, against nine out of 10 in 2009.
A tenth appreciated their boss more now as a result of the economic situation, versus 16 per cent feeling this way last year, the survey said.
"As America recovers from a tough economic climate in 2009, those who survived the recession may be questioning if they still want the same job or career when employment opportunities rebound," said Joanie Ruge, Adecco Group North America senior vice-president.
"In 2010, I think we're going to see business leaders start to get a little more aggressive Ė thinking about and consciously deciding when to shift to a more optimistic, opportunistic employment stance," she added.
"That shift is going to be critical for employers who want to attract and retain the best, strongest talent. Likewise, for candidates today who may be looking to shift careers or experience, they may want to consider applying for temporary and project-based jobs that can shift their career in the direction of higher growth opportunities," she suggested.
"During the recent economic downturn, organizations have not had to spend much time or effort in retaining talent because employee have 'hunkered down' in their roles to try to stay employed in a market of high unemployment," agreed Adam Alexander, vice-president of careers' firm MasteryWorks.
"As the economy recovers, these same employees will begin to look for new opportunities, and with the lack of a strong retention strategy in place many organizations face the prospect of losing top talent," he added.