Recessionary Angst Top of Mind for U.S. Workers

The strain of the continued global economic crisis is starting to show in America's workforce, as more employees hunker down to weather the financial storm. According to survey findings by global professional services firm Towers Perrin, 82 percent of U.S. workers have been personally affected by the downturn in the economy, and more than nine out of 10 workers--91 percent--said their companies have been affected as well. More than half of those surveyed (54 percent) reported their companies are not hiring, while 45 percent reported staffing cuts at their companies. In light of these actions, and the steady rise in unemployment, most employees appear to be shifting their focus from maximizing career advancement and incentive opportunities to securing basic pay and benefit packages.

"In an economic downturn, employees want to lock down the things they need to provide stability and security for themselves and their families. A steady paycheck and set of core benefits, including health care coverage, typically top that list," said Emmett Seaborn, a Towers Perrin principal and head of intellectual capital development for the firm's Human Capital Group. "What's also notable, though, is employees' sense of what we might call 'shared destiny' with their employer. They understand their stability rests on the organization's performance and success, and they're willing to commit to helping drive that success as much as they can."

In fact, according to this study, job security and long-term earning potential are the key concerns for respondents. Forty-five percent of those polled believe they face greater risk that their job will change or be eliminated, and 55 percent believe the risk that their future earnings will plateau or decline has increased as well. Employees' depleted retirement accounts also appear to be driving dramatic changes in their plans to retire. Nearly two-thirds of those polled believe they face a much greater risk that they won't be able to afford to retire when they want to.

Amid this recessionary angst, the survey also shows that employees' priorities are changing. When polled on the factors most important to their work experience, respondents put a "secure position they can count on for the long term" at the top of the list. Having adequate benefit protection for themselves and their families rose sharply in importance, as well.

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