Of course, whether you have a bad job or not is not something I can answer, but luckily some folks think they have figured out as to what a “bad” job really is. This article in the Arizona Republic (HT: Coyoteblog and apologies as I basically parrot his post), cites an unnamed study, which classifies 35% of Arizona jobs as “bad,” because they pay less than $17 an hour and offer no benefits. On the other hand, 22% of Arizonans apparently have “good” jobs, which the study defines as making more than $17 an hour with health insurance, retirement plans, and various other unnamed benefits. Unfortunately, as there is no link or naming of this study, I have no way of determining the “goodness” or “badness” of the remaining 43% of Arizona jobs, which exceed $17 an hour but fail to include all the “good” job basket of mystery benefits (however, considering the percentages of insured/uninsured most of these “limbo” jobs presumably come with the big benefit—health insurance). The 43% would also include entrepreneurs and the self-employed who cannot technically offer themselves any benefits. This also begs the question as to whether any of those in "bad" or "limbo" jobs happened to fall under the benefits of parents or spouses with "good" jobs.
Confusion over percentages aside, the whole idea of measuring “good” or “bad” jobs is pointless. For starters, a person’s evaluation of his or her job is their own. I know lots of folks who make great money with fantastic benefits and positively despise their jobs. I know others, who make little and get by without health insurance (usually because they are young and healthy), who are overjoyed by their work and overall existence. Furthermore, as Coyote points out, retirees (and there are a few of them in Arizona) who work part time in leisurely, but relatively low-paying jobs, would still hold “bad” jobs despite possessing insurance coverage through Medicare and probably already well stocked in the retirement plan department. The same goes for teenagers or college students who may work part time while remaining covered under their parents’ health insurance with no real need for a 401(k) or employer subsidized life insurance. The best (see “bad”) job I ever had was in grad school, when I also happened to be flat broke—but living fairly well in my statistical poverty and misery.
There also remains the “compared to what” issue. Ten bucks an hour ain’t a bad racket if you have no skills and may not even speak the language. Had this study been conducted in China, it would have found nothing but “bad,” jobs even though Chinese factory workers may earn wages thirty times better than their previously “bad” job of starving peasant. The lesson here is the power of subjective value. Whether it is compensation, working conditions, music, movies, or dinner, different folks value different things differently, at different times, places, and situations; making defining “good” or “bad” jobs from the standpoint of a third party a waste of time and effort in addition to communicating little useful knowledge.