Not much to celebrate this Labor Day


August 29, 2008|By HANAH CHO | HANAH CHO,

Most workers say they have little to celebrate this Labor Day.

Several recent surveys depict a general malaise among workers and depression about the job market and the economy.

A survey of 1,000 Americans released yesterday concluded worker confidence about the economy is lower than during the recession of 2001 - even though the unemployment rate now is below 2001 levels. The nation's unemployment rate is 5.7 percent, higher than Maryland's 4.4 percent.

The researchers also point out concern over declining home values and rising gas prices. (The survey, conducted by Rutgers University's John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.)Though 91 percent of workers reported overall job satisfaction, the survey revealed anxiety and worries underneath the surface.

One in four workers say they are less satisfied with their jobs than they were 12 months ago. When it comes to salary, 37 percent said they often don't make enough to make ends meet.

And 13 percent report being laid off from a job in the past three years. Even grimmer: 15 percent say they anticipate layoffs at their company during the next year.

In fact, a new analysis by Chicago outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas projects that the heavy job cuts we've seen this year could extend into early 2009. As of July 31, 579,260 jobs have been cut, according to Challenger.

"Very few people in this country have job security. Tenured professors are one. And some civil servants, maybe," says Allison Kopicki, a co-writer of the Rutgers survey. "The rest of us, there is none of that job security."

Watch those perks!

Amid the current economic stress, employers might be tempted to take away company perks, according to an article in Knowledge@Wharton, the online business journal of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Perks can included a company car, corporate jet or a membership to a country club (most of these are extended to high-level executives), or more work force-based benefits such as concierge services, child care or free coffee.

Peter Cappelli, a management professor at Wharton, says employers should be careful about how they reduce or cut perks.

"The big issue is to make the case for cutting them," he says. "It's hard to do them quietly. People notice them, so you have to communicate."

More worker worries

Economic uncertainty also played a huge role in another survey assessing workers' concerns this Labor Day.

The cost of gasoline is the No. 1 concern among 1,186 workers surveyed online by Harris Interactive for staffing firm Adecco.

Other top worries include stagnant paychecks, work-life balance, the rising cost of health care and the job market.

Hanah Cho's On the Job column appears each Friday.

What are you celebrating this Labor Day? Send your stories, tips and questions to Please include your first name and your city.

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