Even when broken up by age groups, income levels and geographic regions, job-satisfaction levels were lower than ever. Workers under 25 (36%) and those who live in the mountain region (41%) were especially disgruntled.

Overall, nearly a quarter of respondents -- 22% -- expect to leave their current jobs within the next year.

So what's a boss to do? Salary and health benefits may be at the mercy of the economy. The Conference Board forecasts a salary-budget increase of 3% for 2010, the smallest in 25 years. But the report suggests that companies can improve morale (not to mention productivity) with a few strategies that aren't dependent on the budget. These include rotational assignments, intellectually challenging tasks, and, most importantly, communication.

To let employees know their work is relevant, employers should actually talk to them, the report says. More specifically, the report recommends building a "line of sight" that gives employees a means of understanding the impact of their contributions, encouraging employee involvement in major decisions and delivering company news face-to-face whenever possible.

-- Reported by Carmen Nobel in Boston.

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