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U.S. Workers' Job-Loss Fears Back to Pre-Recession Levels

U.S. Workers' Job-Loss Fears Back to Pre-Recession Levels

by Rebecca Riffkin

Story Highlights

  • In U.S., 13% of workers say being laid off very/fairly likely
  • Down from 21% in 2010, return to levels seen before recession
  • A majority say it is not at all likely they will lose their job

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the U.S., 13% of employed adults think it is "very" or "fairly" likely that they will be laid off in the next 12 months, down slightly from the 16% who feared job loss a year ago. The percentage who fear being laid off is down from a high of 21% in 2010 and is essentially back to where it was in April 2007, before the Great Recession began.

Americans' Fears of Being Laid Off Return to Pre-Recession Levels

These results are part of a Gallup trend dating back to 1975. The most recent update is based on Gallup's annual Economy and Personal Finance poll, conducted April 9-12, in which full- and part-time employed adults were asked to predict the likelihood that they will be fired or laid off from their job in the next 12 months.

American workers' job security appears to be influenced by changes in the unemployment rate and the perceived health of the job market. In addition to the heightened concerns about being laid off seen in 2010 through 2013, worry about being laid off also rose to as high as 19% in 1982 during another time of high unemployment.

Overall, the long-term trend shows that, regardless of what is happening in the economy, the majority of workers do not think there is a high likelihood that they will be laid off. Currently, 34% say it is "not too likely" and a majority of 52% say it is "not at all likely" to happen. American workers' perceptions are probably in line with reality, because even in times of high unemployment, nine in 10 Americans who want to work have been employed.

Majority of U.S. Workers Are Confident They Won't Be Laid Off

Across Most Subgroups, Worry About Job Loss Subsides

To gauge changes in job worries by subgroup before, during and after the economic downturn, Gallup aggregated data across multiple years to provide more reliable estimates of worker subgroups. The pre-recession period includes data from 2006 and 2007, when an average of 11% of workers said it was very or fairly likely they would be laid off. The period of heightened job concerns covers 2010 through 2013 (Gallup did not ask this question in the 2008 and 2009 polls), when 18% were worried about being laid off; the current period covers the last two years, when an average of 15% were worried.

The trends show similar patterns in worry among all key subgroups -- including by household income, education level, age and gender. All groups saw an increase in worry about losing their job from 2006-2007 to 2010-2013, and most have seen an easing of that worry in the last two years.

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Across all three time periods, concerns about being laid off vary most by education and income level. Higher-income workers and those with more education are much less likely to think they will lose their job than lower-income workers and those with less formal education. Younger workers tend to be a bit more worried about losing their job than those who are older, probably because older workers are more established in their career. Men and women show similar levels of worry.

Notably, even among the groups most worried about losing their job, only about one-quarter think that it is likely to happen.

Bottom Line

The changes in workers' concerns about losing their job in recent years are consistent with changes in other recent employment trends. Gallup's Job Creation Index, which measures the percentage of workers who say their employer is hiring minus the percentage who say their employer is letting people go, has steadily increased from the low levels found in 2010 through 2013 and now is among the highest found since October 2008. The unemployment rate has dropped both in Gallup's measures and in measures put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The government's official unemployment statistics found that unemployment dropped below 7% in the last month of 2013, the first time since 2008 it had sunk that low.

U.S. workers seem to be sensitive to changes in the national economy and the job market, which, in turn, affects how secure they feel in their job. It appears the period of heightened concerns about layoffs, seen after the recession, has now ended.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 9-12, 2015, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 472 adults employed full or part time, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of employed adults, the margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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