Fear of layoffs and not finding a new job

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For most workers, even in a slowing economy with recessionary headlines published daily and stocks in a bear market, layoffs remain in the abstract.

According to a new CNBC and Momentive workforce survey, 59 percent of American workers are not concerned that they or someone in their household will lose a job in the coming months. And even more (80%) are confident that they would find a new job in six months or less if they lost it today.

This worker confidence makes sense in a job market that still performs exceptionally well, but there are some notable exceptions, starting with the niche workers who have been the envy of the rest of the working world during Covid.

Remote workers are less confident in their ability to find a new job quickly, according to the CNBC|Momentive Workforce Survey by Q4 2022. Specifically, 24% of those who work remotely say they could find a new job in a month if they lose their current job, versus 41% of office workers who say the same. And 24% of those who work remotely say it could take more than six months to find a new job, versus 16% of office workers.

“Remote workers are the most fearful of layoffs, because they know they’ve had a good deal: they may have suffered from the initial dysfunction of Covid, but have since reaped the benefits and relative autonomy created by working from home. That power gives them This dynamic will naturally return to employers if the economy weakens,” said Laura Wronski, senior manager of scientific research at Moment.

Momentive conducted the poll for CNBC from November 28 to December 28. 5 out of more than 10,000 US workers.

Overall, the survey finds that worker morale is higher now than at any time in the past three years. Nearly three-quarters of workers (72%) say morale is “great” or “good” at their workplace right now, up from 64% year-over-year. Morale is even higher for younger workers, but according to Momentive, “morale is high among nearly all workers, regardless of gender, race, or job level.”

American workers are not worried about possible layoffs, according to a new CNBC poll

Recent labor market data shows a level of job vacancies that, even if declining from a peak, has held above 10 million in the latest government data. and the workers are demanding more money than ever to move to a new job, according to New York Fed data released this week.

“Businesses have been loathe to resort to layoffs since the early days of the pandemic,” Wronski said. “If you have a job where you can work remotely some or all of the time, you’re doing pretty well right now, but it might not last. If the economy shows signs of further weakness, the flexibility and benefits many workers are used to in the last few years it will probably dissipate.”

How traditional fears about job security are rising, in two charts

When it comes to layoffs, certain long-standing labor market fears remain, even at lower levels.

Food and beverage (45%) and transportation (45%) workers, sectors where turnover is historically high and jobs tend to be lower-paying and where holiday-related seasonal work is more common, are even more concerned. than tech workers (44%) about their job security.

Income level is a major factor in increasing fear of layoffs.

Race and ethnicity also continue to play a significant role in feelings of job security.

But it’s just as remarkable, though not surprising in today’s economy, that the high-wage tech sector is right there with food and drink and transportation, with almost half of its workers worried about losing their jobs.

Tech layoffs and job security fears in working from home

The role of tech workers in reading negative workforce sentiment is significant.

Layoff and quit rates remain very low relative to history, and compared to the 2008-2009 recession, layoffs are well below that level, said Layla O’Kane, a senior economics at Lightcast. The labor economics research firm expects layoffs to remain low over the next quarter.

“Until we start to see job opening rates drop further, [workers] you won’t have to worry about layoffs,” O’Kane said.

Even in food and beverage, he said, although it’s a high-turnover industry, the level of job openings is still high and there has been a lot of salary growth over the past year.

That brought her back to tech workers as key to this remote work story. “People working remotely are more likely to be in technology, while people working in person are more likely to be in hospitality or healthcare,” O’Kane said. “People who work remotely are more likely to be in industries facing layoffs.”

He also noted that for professional service workers, it can take longer to find a job because they often have more savings and can take their time moving to a new position. Remote positions are more likely to be offered in jobs that require a bachelor’s degree, and the growth of remote work is largely concentrated in occupations with college degrees.

There are also logical reasons for remote workers to worry more. They may have moved to locations where fewer, if any, positions are available. And they may be less afraid of open-market employers who offer the same job flexibility as their current job. But Lightcast says the data on remote work opportunities remains positive.

The Lightcast data shows no weakening in the overall remote work market. As of November 2022, the three-month moving average of the share of job postings that allow for remote work was 15.8% for occupations that require a college degree and 4.9% for those that do not. a university degree. This is likely to undercount the actual number of jobs that would allow remote work, as employers commit to posting the remote job upfront (rather than discussing it as part of the interview process).

“Overall, we continue to see remote work opportunities level off and grow,” O’Kane said.

But data from CNBC|Momentive shows that the influence of tech workers, while noticeable in the remote work trend, is a subset of a broader phenomenon.

Tech workers are less likely than other workers to think it will take them less than a month to find a new job (27% vs. 37%, respectively). Tech workers who work remotely are less likely than in-person tech workers to think they could find another job within a month (20% vs. 35%, respectively).

But the same is true among non-tech workers who are remote: 27% vs. 39% of in-person non-tech workers who say they could find another job in a month. This data also shows that tech workers who work remotely are less likely than non-tech workers who work remotely to think they can get another job within a month if they lose theirs.

“Layoffs in tech are clearly hitting sentiment among tech workers, raising fears that they might not be able to find another job in a short period of time if they were laid off. Remote tech workers are more fearful than in-person tech workers. , like remote workers in general, are more fearful than in-person workers,” Wronski said.

It’s a noticeable negative tech effort, but it doesn’t change the story much. And the story the data tells about the latest remote work trend is: the less a person works in the office, the more likely they are to say it will take them longer to find a new job if they lose theirs.

To join the CNBC Workforce Executive Council, apply at cnbccouncils.com/wec.

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