Benefit Reductions Remain Top Worry for American Workers
Economy

Benefit Reductions Remain Top Worry for American Workers

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Worry about being laid off still elevated, compared with pre-recession

PRINCETON, NJ -- Forty percent of American workers are worried that their benefits will be reduced in the near future, more than say they are worried about being laid off, having their wages reduced, or having their hours cut back.

Next, please indicate whether you are worried or not worried about each of the following happening to you, personally, in the near future. How about -- ?

The results are based on Gallup's annual Work and Education poll, conducted Aug. 9-12. In 1997 and each year since 2003, Gallup has asked workers to indicate whether they are worried about losing their job or having their compensation reduced.

Americans' worry about all items other than having their job moved overseas spiked in 2009, after the financial crisis, and has remained elevated since. The relative rank-order of job worries has been fairly consistent over this time, with possible benefit cuts always generating the most worry.

Percentage Worried About Job Events, 1997-2012

Even with the increases after 2009, Gallup has never found a majority of workers worried about any of the possible job-related losses in its 15-year history of asking the question.

Though worry about each of the possible job events is two to five percentage points lower than in the 2011 survey, the changes are not large enough from a statistical perspective to definitively conclude that fewer workers are worried now than last year.

College Graduates Less Inclined to Worry About Job

Americans with less formal education are more likely than those with greater educational attainment to worry about losing their job or having their pay or benefits reduced. Specifically, 34% of college nongraduates say they are worried about being laid off, compared with 18% of college graduates. There is a slightly larger education gap in terms of worry about having hours cut back, 33% to 14%, and slightly smaller gaps on pay or benefit cuts.

Worry About Job Events, by Educational Attainment, August 2012

Implications

U.S. workers continue to worry more about being laid off or having their compensation cut than they did before the financial crisis of late 2008 and early 2009. However, still less than a majority is worried about any such loss.

That means most American workers feel secure about their employment situation, even during one of the slower economic times in U.S. history -- perhaps helping to maintain consumer spending enough to prevent a second recession.

U.S. workers feel their benefits are most at risk, which may be the first place employers seek to cut back during difficult economic times. And workers may be willing to accept such cuts over more severe measures like pay cuts or layoffs.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 9-12, 2012, with a random sample of 492 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, who are employed full-time or part-time.

For results based on the total sample of workers, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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