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American Workers Remain Upbeat About Job Security

American Workers Remain Upbeat About Job Security

Story Highlights

  • Nine in 10 workers satisfied with job security; 63% completely satisfied
  • 18% of workers are worried about being laid off
  • Democrat, lower-income and Hispanic workers express above-average worry

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- American workers continue to express low levels of worry about being laid off from their jobs and near record-high levels of satisfaction with their job security. These positive attitudes have been evident for the last three years and reflect the low unemployment rate and reports of new job creation in the U.S.

Line graph showing trend lines of U.S. workers completely satisfied with job security and those worried about being laid off.

These measures of American workers' attitudes were updated most recently in Gallup's Aug. 1-12 Work and Education survey.

Workers' worries about being laid off have never been high on an absolute basis, even in times of relatively high unemployment. The percentage worried doubled between 2008 and 2009, from 15% to 31%, as the impact of the financial meltdown and recession became evident, but even that change left more than two-thirds who were not worried. The relatively higher levels of worry persisted through 2013 but dropped to 19% in 2014 and have remained between 18% and 22% since. However, the current 18% of workers who are worried about losing their jobs is not quite back down to the lowest Gallup measure of 14% in 2007.

A separate measure of employment perceptions on the annual Work and Education survey asks employed adults to say how satisfied they are with their own job security. At least six in 10 American workers have reported being "completely satisfied" with their job security since 2016 -- higher than at any point since Gallup first asked this question in 1993. As on the worry measure, the percentage completely satisfied fell after the financial meltdown and recession to between 49% and 51% from 2009 through 2013. Prior to the recession, the highest percentage of workers who said they were completely satisfied with their job security was 56%.

Currently, in addition to the 63% of workers who say they are completely satisfied with their job security, another 27% are "somewhat" satisfied, leaving about one in 10 who are dissatisfied.

Concern About Job Security Reflects Politics

Workers' attitudes about their job security, like so many other attitudes in today's polarized political environment, differ based on underlying political identity. Democratic workers (including independents who lean Democratic) are more than twice as worried as Republicans and Republican-leaning independents about losing their jobs, and are significantly less likely to be completely satisfied with their job security.

Democrats More Worried About Being Laid Off, Less Satisfied With Job Security
Worried about being laid off Satisfaction with job security
% Yes % Completely satisfied
Republicans/Leaners 9 72
Democrats/Leaners 24 52
Gallup, Aug. 1-12

These patterns have shifted to some degree over the course of the George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump presidencies. As is the case now under Trump, Republicans were more positive about their job situation when Bush was in the White House. The pattern of the president's own party members being more positive was more mixed during the Obama administration, which coincided with the financial crisis, but Democrats in a number of those years were at least modestly more positive than Republicans.

An analysis of aggregated data from surveys conducted between 2014 and 2018 shows that Hispanic workers and those in households earning less than $30,000 a year stand out as having relatively high worry about being laid off and as having lower levels of satisfaction with job security. Additionally, workers in the South appear to be modestly more positive about their job situation than those in the other regions of the country.

Worry About Being Laid Off and Satisfaction With Job Security, by Demographic Group
Worried Completely satisfied
% %
High school or less 24 64
Some college 17 60
College grad only 18 57
Postgrad 15 59
18 to 29 24 63
30 to 49 19 60
50 to 64 18 57
65 or older 12 74
Male 19 63
Female 20 58
Non-Hispanic White 15 63
Non-Hispanic Black 19 58
Hispanic 36 54
Less than $30,000 39 46
$30,000 to less than $75,000 19 62
$75,000 or more 15 63
Member of Labor Union
Yes, self 18 61
Yes, other household member 21 59
Yes, both 16 58
No labor union connection 20 61
East 23 55
Midwest 19 59
South 15 66
West 22 59
Aggregated data, 2014-2018 Gallup surveys

Bottom Line

The fact that most American workers remain unconcerned about losing their jobs and show high levels of satisfaction with their job security is reflective of today's robust U.S. employment picture. But even when the economic landscape is challenging, most workers do not have concerns about their job security, perhaps because they do not think layoffs could happen to them, or perhaps because of the reality that even in a poor economy, nine in 10 Americans who want to work will be employed.

The government most recently reported that 201,000 jobs had been created in August of this year, wage increases are at a nine-year high and the current 3.9% unemployment rate remains as low as it has been since 2000. Additionally, more than six in 10 Americans have consistently said over the last seven months that it is a good time to find a quality job -- record highs since Gallup began tracking this measure in 2001. Recent news reports continue to focus on the difficulty employers are having in hiring enough workers, particularly in light of a slowdown in immigration.

Despite the positive economic news, many observers point to the looming impact of artificial intelligence and robots as potentially affecting millions of jobs. Americans themselves are certainly cognizant of this possibility. A Gallup study conducted for Northeastern University indicated that over seven in 10 Americans say that the advent of artificial intelligence will eliminate more jobs than it creates. But most workers do not seem to be translating this long-term awareness into short-term fear of losing their jobs. The August Gallup poll included a question asking workers directly if they were worried about their job becoming obsolete or unnecessary because of technology. The 15% who were worried is about the same as the percentage who are worried about getting laid off in general.

One of the consequences of workers' lowered concerns about being laid off may be increasing employee engagement, which is now at record highs. As the chief scientist of Gallup's workplace management practice, Jim Harter, recently explained, employees who are less engaged may be more empowered in today's environment to vote with their feet and seek other employment, leaving behind only those who are most connected to their jobs. This in turn means that employers have to be more conscious than ever of how their employees are being managed, as the fear of losing one's job is apparently not going to provide the leverage for motivating workers that it may have in the past.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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