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U.S. Workers Still on Elevated Alert for Potential Job, Pay Cuts

U.S. Workers Still on Elevated Alert for Potential Job, Pay Cuts

Roughly one in four is worried they could lose their job, see pay or hour reductions

PRINCETON, NJ -- U.S. workers' worries about job and pay cutbacks have eased slightly since 2009, but they continue to be high compared with prior years. In particular, roughly one in four Americans employed full or part time is currently worried about being laid off in the near future. That is nearly double the rate seen in August 2008, just prior to the start of the Wall Street financial crisis that sent consumer confidence and perceptions of the job market tumbling.


The same pattern is seen with respect to having one's hours cut back and wages reduced. Workers are less concerned this year than last year, but still more than at other times since Gallup first measured this in 1997.


Fear of having one's benefits reduced also dipped this year after spiking to 46% in 2009. However, it remains roughly 10 percentage points higher than the levels seen from 2003 through 2008. By contrast, relatively few workers are worried their company is likely to move jobs overseas, a concern that has shown little variation since Gallup first measured it in 2003.


The latest findings are from Gallup's annual Work and Education survey, conducted Aug. 5-8, 2010.

Of the five potential cutbacks measured, workers are most likely to believe they will experience reduced benefits -- a finding that crosses all income levels, although it is particularly high among middle-income earners. Fear of having one's hours cut back is much more prevalent among workers in low- and middle-income households -- many of whom are likely paid on an hourly basis -- than among those living in households with $100,000 or more in annual income. Fear of having one's wages reduced is even across all income levels.


Bottom Line

U.S. workers' sense of job and income security was seriously rattled in 2009 following the financial crisis that kicked off in September 2009. While fear of losing one's job and seeing benefits or pay reduced is less prevalent now than it was a year ago at this time, these perceptions have not recovered to pre-crisis levels and may partly explain why consumer spending also continues to lag behind spending in early 2008.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 5-8, 2010, with a random sample of 1,013 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

For results based on the total sample of 499 adults employed full or part time, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. 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, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental 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

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