Fearing the worst on jobs

Sep 22 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

American Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's $700bn bail-out of the U.S financial system last week has brought a glimmer of hope to workers that it may signal at least the end of the beginning of the credit crunch – but they are still deeply worried about their jobs.

A poll by the U.S Employment Law Alliance has found that more than half of American workers are worried about whether they would be able to find a new job if they become unemployed.

Their ability to pay for healthcare insurance in the event of losing a secure income was also keeping many Americans awake at night.

The survey of more than 1,000 workers was carried out just before the U.S. Labor Department reported national unemployment had hit a five-year high of 6.1 per cent.

It also concluded that more Americans felt Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama would be more effective at tackling the country's workplace woes than Republican candidate John McCain, echoing national polls that have suggested Obama is now moving back ahead of McCain.

Stephen J Hirschfeld, chief executive of ELA, said the poll showed fear was becoming a primary emotion within the workplace.

"Our poll results clearly show that after fear of finding another job if displaced, related pocketbook issues – led by the affordability of healthcare insurance – have American workers on edge.

"These highly personal issues – much more than the prospect of tackling immigration and making it easier for unions to organise – are trending as the paramount hot-button election issues. Perhaps the real battleground in this election is every American workplace," he added.

Meanwhile, a separate poll by graduate careers' company Experience has found that, with the jobs market getting tougher by the day, more than eight out of 10 college graduates say would be prepared to relocate within the U.S if it meant they landed a job.

Seven out of 10 would also be happy to relocate abroad, with most citing career opportunities as the main reason for being happy to pack their bags.

Job fears are uppermost in the minds of many British workers, too, with both the UK's Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and the union body the TUC warning that Britain is facing a jobs' meltdown.

Official government figures last week showed the worst deterioration in the UK's underlying job situation for at least a decade – with unemployment rising by 81,000 to 1.72 million between May and July.

These figures, the CIPD argued, simply confirmed grim forecasts it made at the start of the year.

John Philpott, CIPD chief economist, warned that Britain could experience "an avalanche" of job losses in the coming months.

"A significant drop in job vacancies and a sudden large jump in the vacancy rate underlies a fall in the number of people in work and surge in joblessness," he said.

"There are not only more people unemployed and looking for jobs but also more economically inactive and outside the workforce. Most worrying of all, more of the jobless are suffering long-periods without work; a trend that looks set to worsen with the number of vacancies falling so sharply," he added.

CIPD surveys of employers' recruitment and redundancy intentions already indicated that demand for staff had weakened significantly into the autumn, he worried.

"With business confidence diminishing almost by the day it is becoming clear that more and more employers are readying themselves for further job cuts," said Philpott.

Unemployment would break the two million mark next year, he predicted, a forecast backed by the union body the TUC.

It added that it expected the number of people out of work for at least a year to rise from 400,000 to 700,000 by the end of this year.

The union body warned that construction, shops, hotels and restaurants were all sectors being hit hard.

"In a break with recent trends, middle-aged people and those up to state pension age appear to have borne the brunt of the fall in employment," said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.

"This may signal that despite the introduction of age discrimination legislation older people might still be those more likely to accept voluntary redundancy or be hit by compulsory job cuts," he added.

Against such a gloomy backdrop, it's therefore perhaps not too surprising that a poll by recruitment firm Monster has found nearly half of workers wish they could head back to relative sanctuary of university this autumn.

For most – 45 and 40 per cent respectively – the desire to go back and study was because they felt they were not learning anything in their job or achieving their career goals, it added.