Generation X workers have become disillusioned with tech culture—and their jobs

 Generation X workers are losing motivation for the work they perform in the tech industry. That’s according to a study conducted by the experience management firm Qualtrics. The firm polled tech workers to see how they felt about their companies’ mission and values and their work that is driven by that. 

While the the survey found that the majority of millennial workers are still motivated by their companies’ missions, a majority of Gen X workers said they are over it. Specifically, when asked if their company’s “mission and values are more motivating than they were pre-pandemic,” 56% of millennials said yes as did 47% of Gen Z. But just 38% of Gen X workers agreed with the statement.

When all groups were asked if they agreed with the statement “I aspire to work for a high-profile, large technology company,” 60% of millennials and 60% of Gen Z agreed, while just 37% of Gen X did. When asked if they agreed with the statement “Work has become even more important to me and achieving my life goals,” 49% of millenials and 42% of Gen Z agreed, while only 32% of Gen X respondents agreed.

The study defines Generation X as people born between 1965 and 1980.

What’s interesting about these figures is that Gen X is the generation that built the modern-day tech culture—those who believed that technology could change society for the better and who were also healthily compensated for their work through high salaries, stock options, and other workplace perks. But now 68% of Gen X tech workers say their work isn’t as important to them in achieving their life’s goals.

What changed their outlook? The pandemic and its repercussions: remote work, the Great Resignation, and the massive layoffs that have hit the tech industry over the past year. 

“As the industry and economy continue to shift, tech company leaders must renegotiate their relationship with employees,” Qualtrics's chief workplace psychologist, Dr. Benjamin Granger, said. “Call it a ‘mid-life crisis’ for tech companies or just one more change brought on by the pandemic years, but there’s clearly a shift in sentiment, especially among the older, more tenured employees.”

Qualtrics conducted its study in July and August 2023 among 1,000 U.S.-based tech employees.

There’s a saying that economic expansions don’t die of old age: They’re murdered by the Federal Reserve. If that’s the case, then the U.S. economy is outrunning its would-be assailant this year.

Steady hiring and robust consumer spending offer the latest evidence that the pandemic’s effects and the government’s unprecedented policy responses made the economy surprisingly resilient to the Fed’s most aggressive interest-rate increases in 40 years. 

Employers added 3.1 million jobs over the past 12 months, including 187,000 in August, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate rose to 3.8% from 3.5% in July as more Americans joined the workforce. 

Three factors explain why the U.S. economy keeps defying predictions of recession. 

First, a growing workforce and slower price increases have boosted Americans’ inflation-adjusted or “real” incomes this year, fueling more hiring and spending.

Second, the unusual nature of the Covid-19 pandemic distorted spending patterns, leading to shortages of goods, housing and workers. This created enormous pent-up demand that has been less sensitive, for now, to higher rates.

Why There Hasn’t Been a Recession—Yet
Why There Hasn’t Been a Recession—Yet
Why There Hasn’t Been a Recession—YetPlay video: Why There Hasn’t Been a Recession—Yet
A year ago a majority of economists expected a recession. So where’d it go? Photo illustration: Madeline Marshall

Third, the government initially showered the economy with cash and held interest rates at rock-bottom levels, allowing businesses and consumers to lock in lower borrowing costs. Subsequent legislation, including the Inflation Reduction Act and the $53 billion Chips and Science Act, further boosted federal spending and spurred additional private-sector investment in manufacturing.

Given that backdrop, “the real question is why would the economy have capitulated?” said Christopher Thornberg, founding partner at Beacon Economics in Los Angeles. 

None of this implies the economy will be resilient forever. The Fed raised its benchmark federal-funds rate to a 22-year high in July, and officials have kept the door open to further hikes if activity accelerates.

Covid-era buffers will eventually erode—for example, as companies that locked in lower borrowing costs have to roll over their debts in coming years at higher rates and as households run down their savings. Banks are already pulling back on lending after two high-profile failures fanned concerns about their profitability. Lenders face potential losses on office buildings whose values will tumble if employers continue to embrace hybrid work.

A buoyant labor market

The economy has benefited this year from an easing of pandemic-driven labor shortages as more immigrants and native-born Americans join the workforce. 

Companies are holding tight to workers and bumping up their pay. Real after-tax incomes rose 3.8% in July from a year earlier and have risen year-over-year each month since January.

Those gains help fuel robust consumer spending, which accounts for roughly two-thirds of U.S. economic output. “Real incomes are what is driving the bus here,” said Neil Dutta, an economist at the research firm Renaissance Macro.

Spending and income, year-over-year changeSource: Commerce Department via St. Louis Fed
RECESSIONConsumer spendingPrivate-sector wage andsalary disbursements-15-10-50510152025%'05'10'15'201988'90'952000

The Fed has clearly slowed credit-sensitive activity, including private equity and commercial real estate. “But in terms of the backbone of the U.S. economy, the spine is strong” because of robust income growth, said Dutta.

Today’s tight labor market in part reflects a postpandemic shift in bargaining power. Businesses boosted worker pay as they struggled to staff up following lockdowns. Americans surveyed by the New York Fed in July expected annual salary offers in the subsequent four months of about $67,000 upon receiving a job offer, well above $60,000 a year earlier. 

At the same time, the share of workers who are quitting their jobs—often a sign of bargaining power as employees leave for higher pay elsewhere—eased in July and is returning to prepandemic levels, suggesting a less tight labor market.

Employers report being reluctant to let workers go, given the time and effort it took over the past two years to hire them. “Even if we’re going to have a mild recession, I think a lot of employers are saying it isn’t worth the effort of laying off people,” said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group. “They don’t want to get caught short.”

Some companies report easier hiring for once-hard-to-fill roles such as truck drivers and warehouse workers. Turnover has stabilized at 

, one of the nation’s largest trucking companies. The company is adding hundreds of drivers and dockworkers from its bankrupt rival Yellow, said Judy McReynolds, ArcBest’s chief executive. 

“I wouldn’t say the driver shortage is over, but” for the next year “we’re going to be in a significantly improved place from where we were,” McReynolds said. 

Turnover has stabilized at ArcBest, says Judy McReynolds, CEO of the trucking company, pictured here in May 2022. PHOTO: ARCBEST

McReynolds expects slower hiring as freight demand softens. The company is still looking to bring on sales and technology employees as well as drivers to replace those retiring, but it doesn’t plan to add workers as rapidly as in 2021 and 2022, when it added thousands of new workers. ArcBest had about 15,700 employees as of December 2022.

Other companies still face staffing challenges. 

United Airlines
, which expects to hire 15,000 people this year, faced such a dearth of candidates for ramp-worker roles at its Denver hub that it hosted a job fair in Guam and relocated more than 450 new hires from Guam to Colorado, said human resources chief Kate Gebo.

Catching up with pent-up demand

The recovery from the pandemic has been uneven, creating staggered mini-recessions in different industries. Some sectors that are normally very interest-rate sensitive haven’t provided the expected drag on growth this year. Auto production couldn’t keep up with demand in 2020 and 2021 but now is catching up, so it has been less sensitive to higher rates.

Rising mortgage rates delivered a huge blow to housing affordability, which has kept many homeowners frozen in place. That has benefited home builders, who face less competition from resales and who have used stronger balance sheets to offer discounted prices in the form of mortgage-rate “buy-downs.”

“There are still buyers out there. They have very few options. They therefore find their way to us,” said Douglas Yearley, chief executive of luxury-home builder 

Toll Brothers
 in an earnings call last month.

Bigger buffers

In 2020 and 2021, the U.S. and other governments provided trillions of dollars in financial assistance to households, which were also saving money as the pandemic interrupted normal spending patterns. Meanwhile, central banks cut interest rates, enabling Americans to lower their borrowing costs.

Normally, Fed rate increases force heavily indebted consumers and businesses to rein in spending because they have to pay more to service their loans. But consumers haven’t overextended themselves with debt; household debt-service payments accounted for 9.6% of disposable personal income during the first quarter, below the lowest levels recorded between 1980 and the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

Federal funding continues to flow from President Biden’s roughly $1 trillion infrastructure package approved in 2021 and two pieces of legislation signed last year that provide hundreds of billions of dollars to boost renewable-energy production and semiconductor manufacturing.

Construction companies are encountering the triple threat of an aging workforce, unpredictable immigration policies and overheated demand driven by federal spending and housing shortages, said John Fish, chairman and CEO of Suffolk, a $5.5 billion construction contractor based in Boston.

Stocks have rallied this year, buoyed by the prospect that cooling inflation allows growth to slow without requiring a recession—a so-called soft landing. The S&P 500 declined 27% in the first nine months of 2022 but has since recovered. It is up more than 17% this year and closed Friday nearly 6% below its all-time high recorded at the start of 2022.

“We’re going to come out with a soft landing,” Fish said. Bolt onto that a global economic recovery, additional federal spending and an eventual decline in interest rates, and “those ingredients will create tremendous demand in the service parts of our economy.”

Rising mortgage rates have indirectly benefited home builders, which face less competition from resales and which are offering mortgage-rate ‘buy-downs.’ PHOTO: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Sidestepping the “parade of horribles”

Other executives see storm clouds as lower-income consumers exhaust savings and face higher borrowing costs. Credit-card delinquencies at 

 were higher than anticipated during the second quarter. “We just believe that the customer is coming under pressure” due to higher interest rates and an end to student-debt relief, said Macy’s Chief Financial Officer Adrian Mitchell.

Economists are divided over the outlook. Some think inflation is now mostly under control as pandemic idiosyncrasies resolve themselves, helped by Fed interest-rate increases. They expect the Fed will cut rates next year, enabling a soft landing.

Others worry that the Fed has either raised rates too much or will have to lift them higher to crush demand and reduce inflation. Restrictive monetary policy could trigger a recession by leading to a sharp pullback in lending and declines in asset values. 

Bank of America economists recently scrapped their forecast of a U.S. recession within the next year, while forecasters at Barclays and Citi postponed the anticipated start of a mild downturn into next spring.

Recent data have been “very, very positive” for the soft-landing view, said Jan Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman Sachs. In July, he lowered to 20% the probability of a U.S. recession over the next 12 months, down from 35% in March after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank fanned fears of a broader banking crisis.

Strength in the U.S. raises questions over how long it can diverge from the rest of the world.

China’s leaders are struggling to spur growth in an economy beset by weak consumer confidence, a drawn-out housing slump, and sinking exports.

Germany’s trade-dependent economy is expected to shrink this year, according to the International Monetary Fund, reflecting weakness in manufacturing and the disruptions from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Some economists highlight the role of the U.S.’s good luck. “Apart from the cluster of regional-bank failures, we’ve had few” financial-market disruptions, noted Daleep Singh, chief global economist at PGIM Fixed Income. And since Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, no new geopolitical crises have erupted to disrupt supply chains or oil markets.

“We sidestepped the parade of horribles,” he said.

 Labor Day is right around the corner, along with the big sales and barbecues that come with it. But the activist roots of the holiday are especially visible this year as unions challenge how workers are treated — from Hollywood to the auto production lines of Detroit.

The early-September tribute to workers has been an official holiday for almost 130 years — but an emboldened labor movement has created an environment closer to the era from which Labor Day was born. Like the late 1800s, workers are facing rapid economic transformation — and a growing gap in pay between themselves and new billionaire leaders of industry, mirroring the stark inequalities seen more than a century ago.

“There’s a lot of historical rhyming between the period of the origins of Labor Day and today,” Todd Vachon, an assistant professor in the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, told The Associated Press. “Then, they had the Carnegies and the Rockefellers. Today, we have the Musks and the Bezoses. ... It’s a similar period of transition and change and also of resistance — of working people wanting to have some kind of dignity.”

Between writers and actors on strike, contentious contract negotiations that led up to a new labor deal for 340,000 unionized UPS workers and active picket lines across multiple industries, the labor in Labor Day is again at the forefront of the holiday arguably more than it has been in recent memory.

Here are some things to know about Labor Day this year.


The origins of Labor Day date back to the late 19th century, when activists first sought to establish a day that would pay tribute to workers.

The first U.S. Labor Day celebration took place in New York City on Sept. 5, 1882. Some 10,000 workers marched in a parade organized by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor.

A handful of cities and states began to adopt laws recognizing Labor Day in the years that followed, yet it took more than a decade before President Grover Cleveland signed a congressional act in 1894 establishing the first Monday of September as a legal holiday.

Canada’s Labour Day became official that same year, more than two decades after trade unions were legalized in the country.

The national holidays were established during a period of pivotal actions by organized labor. In the U.S., Vachon points to the Pullman Railroad Strike that began in May 1894, which effectively shut down rail traffic in much of the country.

“The federal government intervened to break the strike in a very violent way — that left more than a dozen workers dead,” Vachon says. Cleveland soon made Labor Day a national holiday in an attempt “to repair the trust of the workers.”

A broader push from organized labor had been in the works for some time. Workers demanded an 8-hour workday in 1886 during the deadly Haymarket Affair in Chicago, notes George Villanueva, an associate professor of communication and journalism at Texas A&M University. In commemoration of that clash, May Day was established as a larger international holiday, he said.

Part of the impetus in the U.S. to create a separate federal holiday was to shift attention away from May Day — which had been more closely linked with socialist and radical labor movements in other countries, Vachon said.


The meaning of Labor Day has changed a lot since that first parade in New York City.

It’s become a long weekend for millions that come with big sales, end-of-summer celebrations and, of course, a last chance to dress in white fashionably. Whether celebrations remain faithful to the holiday’s origins depends where you live

New York and Chicago, for example, hold parades for thousands of workers and their unions. Such festivities aren’t practiced as much in regions where unionization has historically been eroded, Vachon said, or didn’t take a strong hold in the first place.

When Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894, unions in the U.S. were largely contested and courts would often rule strikes illegal, Vachon said, leading to violent disputes. It wasn’t until the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 that private sector employees were granted the right to join unions. Later into the 20th century, states also began passing legislation to allow unionization in the public sector — but even today, not all states allow collective bargaining for public workers.

Rates of organized labor have been on the decline nationally for decades. More than 35% of private sector workers had a union in 1953 compared with about 6% today. Political leanings in different regions has also played a big roll, with blue states tending to have higher unionization rates.

Hawaii and New York had the highest rates of union membership in 2022, respectively, followed by Washington, California, and Rhode Island, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Nationwide, the number of both public and private sector workers belonging to unions actually grew by 273,000 thousand last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found. But the total workforce increased at an even faster rate — meaning the total percentage of those belonging to unions has fallen slightly.


Despite this percentage dip, a reinvigorated labor movement is back in the national spotlight.

In Hollywood, screenwriters have been on strike for nearly four months — surpassing a 100-day work stoppage that ground many productions to a halt in 2007-2008. Negotiations are set to resume Friday. Actors joined the picket lines in July — as both unions seek better compensation and protections on the use of artificial intelligence.

Unionized workers at UPS threatened a mass walkout before approving a new contract last month that includes increased pay and safety protections for workers. A strike at UPS would have disrupted the supply chain nationwide.

Last month, auto workers also overwhelmingly voted to give union leaders the authority to call strikes against Detroit car companies if a contract agreement isn’t reached by the Sept. 14 deadline. And flight attendants at American Airlines also voted to authorize a strike this week.

“I think there’s going to be definitely more attention given to labor this Labor Day than there may have been in many recent years,” Vachon said. Organizing around labor rights has “come back into the national attention. ... And (workers) are standing up and fighting for it.”

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