Survey shows third-quarter dip in employment confidence

RP news wires

Despite the Federal Reserve Bank's recent proclamation that the "recession has ended," a new survey reveals employees and job seekers may not believe this claim due to continued layoffs and other cutbacks within many companies.

According to the Q3 Employment Confidence Survey of 2,407 U.S. adults conducted on its behalf by Harris Interactive, nearly half (45 percent) of employees reported their employers made changes to the number of staff, organizational structure, compensation and benefits or other perks in the past six months. The majority of these employees (56 percent) reported their company made changes or reduced compensation in the past six months, while 28 percent said their own compensation (pay, bonus, etc.) was reduced during the same period. More men (33 percent) reported personal pay cuts than women (22 percent). Slightly more than half (51 percent) said their employers laid off or communicated plans to lay off employees in the past six months, up four percentage points from the second quarter. More than one in five (22 percent) reported their company reduced their health and/or dental benefits, which is unchanged from the second quarter, but remains higher than the prior six quarters.  

"While employment confidence edged up in the second quarter, we've now regressed despite reports the recession ended last year. It's clear employees have yet to see the recovery trickle down for their own benefit, and continued layoffs, lost pay and benefits, and other types of cutbacks are furthering their uncertainty," said Rusty Rueff, career and workplace expert, who has run global HR departments at Electronic Arts and PepsiCo before co-authoring Talent Force: A New Manifesto for the Human Side of Business. "Unemployed job seekers have also grown more pessimistic in the last quarter. Until employees and unemployed job seekers see steady positive changes related to the job market and their bank accounts, it's unlikely we'll see stability in employment confidence, which is a significant indicator of consumer confidence."

In addition to tracking employee-reported company actions, the quarterly Employment Confidence Survey measures four key indicators of employee confidence in the areas of job security, salary expectations, job market/re-hire probability and company outlook. Highlights for the third quarter 2010 survey are below:

Job Security: Layoff Concerns Rise to Level of Fourth Quarter 2009
After five quarters of declines, layoff concerns rose in the third quarter to levels not seen since the fourth quarter 2009.  One in five employees (20 percent) are concerned they could be laid off in the next six months, up from 16 percent in the second quarter. More employees are also concerned their co-workers will lose their jobs in the next six months – one-third (33 percent) have fears their counterparts could be laid off, up from 31 percent last quarter.

Job Market: Rising Pessimism Among Unemployed and Employed in Ability to Find Job in Next 6 Months
Among those unemployed but looking, more than one-third (34 percent) say it is "unlikely" they will find a job in the next six months, up five points from the second quarter to the highest level in the past four quarters. This pessimism is also shared by those who currently have jobs. Should they lose their current job, more than one-third (35 percent) of employees (including those self employed) believe it is unlikely they could find a job matched to their experience and compensation level within the next six months, up from 31 percent in the second quarter. Among employed baby boomers (including those self employed) ages 55+, 50 percent believe it is unlikely they will find a comparable position and pay in the next six months – more than twice as many (24 percent) as  their younger counterparts (ages 18 to 34) who think landing a similar job is unlikely.

Salary Expectations: 44 Percent Do Not Expect Pay Increases; Uncertainty Rises
The gap between those who "do not expect" a pay raise in the next six months (44 percent) and those who do (37 percent) widened in the third quarter, while those who are "uncertain" rose to 20 percent from 17 percent in the second quarter. In the third quarter, 40 percent expected a pay raise within the year while 43 percent did not. Optimism for pay increases among those who live in the Northeast (41 percent), followed by the Midwest (38 percent), South (35 percent) and West (34 percent).

Company Outlook: Employees More Pessimistic About Future Company Outlook
In the third quarter, employees (including those self-employed) reported the lowest level of optimism for their company's outlook in the past five quarters. Slightly less than two in five (38 percent) employees and those who are self employed think their company's outlook will get better in the next six months, which is down seven points from last quarter. More than one in 10 (13 percent) expect their company outlook will get worse, a three-point increase since the second quarter, and nearly half (49 percent) expect their company's outlook to remain the same. Interestingly, men are more optimistic than women as 42 percent of men believe their company outlook will improve in the next six months, compared to just one-third (34 percent) of women. Those in the West have the lowest level of optimism as 33 percent think their company outlook will get better compared to 42 percent in the South and 38 percent in both the Northeast and Midwest.

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