Economic Crisis, Job Losses Frightening U.S. Workers

A national survey of working adults commissioned by Workplace Options, a Raleigh, N.C., provider of work-life employee benefits, showed workers in the United States are increasingly fearful about job security and reducing their personal spending as a result. Nationwide unemployment has risen amid an economic crisis here and around the world, spurring this heightened concern.

Workplace Options, which uses the acronym WPO, released the results of the survey on Oct. 14. Conducted by the North Carolina firm of Public Policy Polling on Sept. 26-27, the survey asked 452 working Americans (from a group of 711 surveyed adults) about their job outlook. The survey has a margin of error of ± 3.7 percent, WPO (www.workplaceoptions.com) said.

More ominously, Juan Somavia, the director-general of the International Labour Office, said Oct.20 the global financial crisis could increase world unemployment by 20 million people. "We need prompt and coordinated government actions to avert a social crisis that could be severe, long-lasting, and global," he said. The estimate is based on revised global growth estimates by the International Monetary Fund1, the UN, and early reports suggesting rising job losses for most countries where data was available, he said, explaining ILO's preliminary estimates indicate the number of unemployed people could rise from 190 million in 2007 to 210 million in late 2009. "This is not simply a crisis on Wall Street -- this is a crisis on all streets. We need an economic rescue plan for working families and the real economy, with rules and policies that deliver decent jobs. We must link better productivity to salaries and growth to employment," Somavia said.

In the Workplace Options survey, almost half of the respondents said they worry their jobs are at risk, and 40 percent said that their employer has not done enough to explain how the economic crisis may affect their workplace. Nearly one-third said they are working more hours and taking less time off, and 25 percent said they were actively looking for a new job or updating their resume because of their concern about the situation.

WPO says work-life services can help to reduce workers' anxiety by saving time and facilitating proactive solutions. WPO gives employees access to financial management resources, counseling resources, day care, and other services that meet specific needs. "The economic situation is a major distraction for everyone right now," says Alan King, president of Workplace Options. "Employees are worried about their jobs, finances, families, and even health. Because of these pressures, WPO is experiencing a surge of calls about financial and emotional counseling. Now more than ever, employers are recognizing the value and convenience of work-life services to help workers navigate these tough times, empower their workforce, and maintain productivity."

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