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Most U.S. Workers Not Yet Drastically Impacted by COVID-19

Most U.S. Workers Not Yet Drastically Impacted by COVID-19

Story Highlights

  • 82% of U.S. workers at least somewhat confident they can meet job requirements
  • Low-income households hit the hardest by employer cutbacks
  • One-third of U.S. workers are not offered paid sick leave by employers

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As employers in the U.S. scramble to adapt their businesses to survive in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than eight in 10 American workers are very (37%) or somewhat (45%) confident they will be able to successfully continue to meet their job requirements should the outbreak continue. A slim 53% majority of workers agree that they are well prepared to do their jobs.

Relatively few Americans (11%) who are employed full or part time report that their employers have cut jobs, reduced hours or frozen hiring as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, and 60% say their personal financial situation has not been impacted yet.

But even in the early days of this crisis, some workers have already been negatively impacted. About one-third (34%) of those whose employers have made cutbacks say they have personally been affected by them. Even more of these employees, 41%, have had their personal financial situation impacted in a major (18%) or minor way (23%). Low-income households have been hit the hardest by such cutbacks as 20% of U.S. workers with annual household incomes under $36,000 say their employers have implemented them -- about twice the rate for employees in higher earning brackets.

U.S. Employees' Reports of Job Cuts, Reduced Hours or Hiring Freezes as a Result of the Coronavirus
Has your employer cut jobs, reduced hours, or frozen hiring as the result of the coronavirus?
Yes No Does not apply
% % %
Employed adults 11 70 20
Household income under $36,000 20 56 23
Household income $36,000-$89999 10 70 21
Household income $90,000+ 9 73 18
Gallup Panel, Mar. 13-16, 2020

These data are from a probability-based Gallup Panel survey, conducted by web March 13-16, as U.S. markets continued to drop, and the federal government considered strong measures to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak's economic impact. The survey was completed before President Donald Trump signed into law a relief package providing free COVID-19 testing and paid emergency sick leave.

Overall, 32% of workers (including 61% from low-income households and 56% of part-time employees) say their employer does not offer paid sick leave, but 61% of workers agree strongly that their manager is encouraging sick employees to stay home from work.

U.S. Workers Give Employers Mixed Reviews

Employees offer a mixed assessment of their employers so far for their handling of the coronavirus crisis:

  • About three-quarters, 74%, say their employer has shared information about precautions being taken to keep employees safe and reduce the risk of illness from the coronavirus.

  • 46% say their immediate supervisor keeps them informed about what is going on in their organization.

  • 43% of workers strongly agree that their employer cares about their wellbeing.

  • 38% strongly agree that they are confident in the leadership of their organization to successfully manage emerging challenges.

Bottom Line

There is much uncertainty about the coronavirus and the effect it will have in the future, but early health and economic indicators are bleak. Americans' worries are mounting, and their confidence in the U.S. economy has fallen dramatically.

Across the board, low-income workers are taking the biggest hits at work as they are most likely to report their employers are reducing staff, hours or hiring. And if they get sick, most do not have paid sick leave to fall back on.

The COVID-19 relief law signed by Trump earlier this week will address the lack of paid sick leave for some of the roughly one-third of U.S. workers who don't currently have it. But the future of legislation to provide cash payments -- which would address the disproportionate impact on low-income workers -- remains uncertain as negotiations continue.

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