US: Workers really feeling insecure

By Raju Chebium

American workers are worried about job security and want the government to help them gain new skills and prevent jobs from being shipped overseas, according to a national survey. The survey, which Rutgers University released Thursday, shows workers are as anxious now as they were during the 2001 recession, and their worries have persisted despite economic gains after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Co-author Carl Van Horn said workers are gloomier these days due to tighter credit, falling house prices, rising costs for health care, food and gasoline, and layoffs in some industries.

“That’s just the new normal, and people don’t like the new normal,” Van Zorn said. “There’s just a lot of bad news out there, and the workplace is just one of the weak spots.”

Timed to coincide with Monday’s observance of Labor Day, the survey polled 1,000 working and unemployed people nationally. That includes 587 currently employed male and female workers of varying ages and ethnicities drawn from blue- and white-collar professions. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1%.

It found that, of those surveyed:

• 32% were “very” concerned about job security and 43% were “somewhat” concerned.

• 80% want the government to prevent jobs from moving overseas.

• 73% want the government to pay for job retraining programs.

• 43% don’t think they will have enough money to retire.

• 53% said they are “very” satisfied with their jobs and 38% were “somewhat” satisfied.

• About one-third said they often don’t have enough money to make ends meet.

• 29% say the amount they owe on credit cards exceeds their retirement savings.

• Nearly one-third of respondents believe they are treated less as a person by their employer and more as “just someone who works” at their job.

A majority of American workers hold favorable attitudes toward their health and retirement benefits (62%), the number of hours they work (83%) and their annual income (74%).

But only 55% of hourly workers are satisfied with their health and medical benefits, compared with 75% of salaried workers.

Harry Holzer, a fellow at the Urban Institute and former labor economist under President Clinton, said forces outside the government’s control fuel work-related anxiety.

Productivity has risen by about 20% since President Bush assumed office, but pay hasn’t risen as much. Corporate America, not government, is shifting jobs overseas, said Holzer, who wasn’t involved in the Rutgers study.

Though people felt a lot more optimistic during the prosperous 1990s, the job market was more volatile back then, Holzer said. The difference was that people were confident of landing new work quickly if they got laid off, an optimism that no longer exists, he said.

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