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U.S. Labor Force Not Optimistic

September 2, 2008
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Just in time for Labor Day, the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers released “The Anxious American Worker.”

Just in time for Labor Day, the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers (www.rutgers.edu) released “The Anxious American Worker,” a survey of 1000 U.S. residents that focused on, you guessed it, jobs and the economy. The survey found that:

“Overall, the Work Trends survey results paint a troubling picture of economic and job insecurity, framed by worry and uncertainty over what the future holds. Consider the following:
  • Just over a third of Americans report having trouble making ends meet.
  • One worker in three acknowledges concern over personal job security.
  • Thirty percent of those in the labor force report that they have more in temporary credit card debt than they do in permanent retirement savings.
  • Only half are working the number of hours they want to work.
The survey also finds one-quarter of American workers are flat-out dissatisfied with their health benefits; a slightly smaller number are dissatisfied with their level of education. Half the workers surveyed also believe they need more education or training to achieve their work goals.”

According to Carl E. Van Horn, professor and director of the Heldrich Center, “Nearly a decade of unaddressed worker concerns is contributing to rising anxiety as many Americans believe they cannot achieve or hold on to the middle-class American dream. Technology, globalization and reductions in health and retirement benefits have fundamentally altered the way companies conduct business and engendered fear in the hearts of many American workers.”

On the other hand, the U.S. Commerce Department (www.commerce.gov) announced last week that second quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth was 3.3%, way better than the 1.9% estimate. “This growth came in the face of serious economic headwinds and shows the resilience of our economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez. “Today’s report highlights the important role exports play in our economic growth. Congress must act with a sense of urgency to schedule votes on the pending free trade agreements. This would help continue the positive growth we’ve seen from trade and give our exporters access to more markets.”

It would be naïve to think that we’re out of the woods because of a decent second quarter. But hey, it sure could have been worse.
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