2018 Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey Results: In Job Satisfaction, Food Goes Bland

Nov. 12, 2018
Salaries and satisfaction among food and beverage employees are sliding a little, according to our annual survey.

Salaries are edging downward, so is job satisfaction, and people are evenly divided on President Trump.

Those are some of the key takeaways from Food Processing’s 12th annual Salary & Job Satisfaction Survey. The online poll probed nearly 400 employees in the food and beverage sector on both salaries and attitudes.

Salaries averaged out to $97,259, a drop of 3.2 percent from our 2017 survey. The median salary did go up a level, reaching $87,500, compared with $85,000 in 2016—perhaps a reflection of higher salaries clustering slightly at the top.

Job satisfaction also seems to be down slightly, or at least leveling off, depending on how you look at it. Only 16 percent of respondents report being “very satisfied” with their jobs, a drop of more than half from 2017. Dissatisfaction was up: 19 percent reported being “somewhat dissatisfied,” compared with 15 percent last year; 9 percent said they were “very dissatisfied,” versus 6.3 percent last year.

On the other hand, 43 percent reported being “somewhat satisfied” with their jobs, up considerably from the 26 percent of 2017. Add those to the “very satisfied” group and the combined 59 percent is within two points of last year’s combined “satisfied” number.

Another contemporary issue that has an impact on the food industry is the administration of President Donald Trump. Businesses of all sorts have the potential to be affected by his aggressive approach to global trade. The food industry has special reason for concern, since much of the retaliation from U.S. trading partners has taken the form of tariffs on food, both farm commodities and processed products.

Our survey shows respondents as evenly split on President Trump as it’s possible to get. Exactly as many people say “he’s improved the business climate” as “he’s made things worse”: 23 percent. The remaining 53 percent chose “no change/no opinion/I can't really tell.”

Several respondents mentioned tariffs: “They are hurting us and have already led to lower margins and may have influenced recent layoffs,” one said. However, the poll was taken before finalization of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on trade, a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement. If ratified by the legislatures of all three nations, USMCA would mostly preserve, and in some cases expand, America’s access to its neighbors’ food markets.

Trump came in for praise from one respondent: “President Trump has done a lot of great things for our country, including pushing Congress to lower our taxes.”

No time for time off

Of course, some concerns are eternal. One of them is getting enough time off—or, more accurately, getting to take the time off that you’re ostensibly entitled to.

Less than half of our respondents could. Asked if they took all the vacation days they were allotted, only 44 percent said yes. Another 29 percent said “most of my allotment”; 15 percent said about half; 7.0 percent said less than half; and an unfortunate 5.4 percent said they took none.

Perceptions of job security have been consistent for the last few years and, in fact, were nearly unchanged in 2018 vs. 2017. Asked about their level of concern over job security compared with last year at this time, 31 percent said they were more concerned, 21 percent said less concerned, and 48 percent said it was about the same.

For some commenters, job security concerns were bound up with age issues. “The one thing everyone in my age group fears the most is being laid off,” said a man identifying himself as between 58 and 65. “From 45 and up it is extremely difficult to find a job. From 60 and up it is nearly impossible.” Another saw two “big hurdles” as age-based: “The young are starting to enter the workforce later in life, and the older generation will have to work longer in life without pensions and health care.”

On the other hand, experienced, long-tenured workers can be especially grateful—if they experience security.

Said one man, who has been with his company between 26 and 35 years: “I have been here for a long time. My job is challenging and secure. It pays well and it beats working for a living.”

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