A recently-published study from Harris Interactive reveals some interesting concerns from American workers surveyed online between March 19 and 21, 2013 (see this April 4 news item for more details: “Majority of American Workers are Worried About Job and Benefits Security.” I can’t help but see this as a natural consequence of our painfully slow economic recovery since the doldrums of 2008-2009. Even though the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the lowest overall unemployment since President Obama took office — 7.5 percent, the grinding and poky pace of economic improvement isn’t buoying confidence amongst the American workforce, which probably explains equally sluggish growth in consumer confidence and spending.
A follow-up story from Harris that appeared on May 2, 2013 ran with the preceding headline, and indicates that slow improvement isn’t really helping American workers feel better about their current work situations and future prospects. The company’s “Harris Poll Jobs and Benefits Security Index” (HP-JBSI)measures how workers feel about their jobs and benefits, and about their overall employment security. The May 2 story reports that “…this combined measure [the HP-JBSI] shows a strong and increasing concern, particularly among older and higher income workers, while individual concerns show more dramatic month-to-month shifts among all workers.”
Here are some of the findings reported in the latest story:
- More U.S. workers (50% March – 53% April) expect to do more work without getting more money in the next three months;
- More U.S. workers (20% March – 24% April) expect to have their salary or hours reduced in the next three months;
- Less U.S. workers (61% March – 55% April) believe that if they were going to look for a new job, they would be able to find one;
- And, less U.S. workers believe they will get a raise from their employer (35% March – 29% April) or receive better retirement benefits (18% March – 13% April) in the next three months.
Turning to the HP-JBSI measurement, Harris reports these findings as well:
- U.S. workers with an annual household income of $50,000-$74,999 (58% March-62% April) are both the most concerned income group, and the group showing the sharpest month-over-month rise in concern. Those with incomes of $75,000 or more also show notable growth in concerns (56% March-59% April).
- U.S. workers ages 55 and older (60% March-63% April) are, in an echo of the trend above, the age group showing both the greatest overall concern and the most prominent growth in this measure.
Harris Interactive President and CEO Al Angrisani (former Assistant Secretary of Labor for President Reagan) uses these results to opine that “…workers are more pessimistic about the likelihood of finding a job if they need to look for one, as well as the likelihood of seeing a benefits improvement.” He goes on to observe that because of the cost and risk involved in recruiting and hiring “talent and new employees,” such activity is regarded as a “major investment consideration for employers.” Their apparent reluctance to increase headcount is also contributing to a sense of unease among employed workers, particularly those at higher pay grades and levels of responsibility.
Does this mean layoffs are coming back in vogue in organizations? Not according to recent first-time unemployment claims figures for the past 4-6 weeks. But something has the workforce spooked, particularly those who’ve been around it long enough to see (or at least fear) the apparent handwriting on the wall. Given recent stock market upticks and new highs set for all three major stock indices last week, it’s interesting to see this wave of fear and loathing from the workforce. Let’s hope it’s just a case of the jitters, and not a portent of a labor downturn in the offing. As always, only time will tell!