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RISMEDIA, April 4, 2009-Despite lower employee confidence in the areas of job security and pay raises, the majority of employees have a surprising level of optimism relating to their ability to sidestep layoffs, the future outlook of their employer and expectations for pay increases, according to the Q1 Employee Confidence Survey of 1,576 employed adults conducted by Harris Interactive. The new quarterly survey measures four key indicators of employee confidence in the areas of job security, salary expectations, re-hire probability and company outlook. In addition, the survey tracks the concessions employees are willing to take to keep their jobs.

Job Security – Fewer employees appear secure in their jobs as about one in four (26%) employees have concerns they could be laid off in the next six months whereas 44 % are concerned co-workers could be laid off, up from 21% and 42% respectively in December 2008. Despite the rise in concerns, nearly three in four (74%) employees have no concerns they will be laid off. Concerns are notably greater among those who work for companies that already had or communicated layoffs with 46% concerned they will be laid off in the next six months while 84% are concerned co-workers will.

Company Outlook – Many employees, including those self employed, may think that the worst is over as the majority report that they expect their company’s business outlook to remain stable (51%) or get better (35%) in the next six months compared to just 14%t who think it will get worse. Those 55 and older have less confidence in their companies with 29% expecting the outlook to get better in the next 6 months compared to 42% of those 45-54. The future isn’t as bright for those whose companies have already endured/communicated layoffs as these employees are three times more likely to expect their company’s outlook to worsen (25%) in the next six months than those who haven’t experienced such actions (8%).

Salary Expectation – More than one-third (36%) of employees expect to receive a raise or cost of living increase in the next six months, down slightly from the 40% in December 2008. The highest confidence in expected pay raises is among those with the highest household income, above $75,000 per year (44%) and those who live in the Northeast (42%), which is the only region where more raises/cost of living increases are expected than not. Men also tend to be more bullish on raises than women with 39% and 32% respectively expecting a pay increase. The gender gap is larger for younger (18-34) workers with 43% of men expecting a raise/cost of living increase, compared to 31% of women.

Re-Hire Probability – Should employees lose their job, 39% think it is at least somewhat likely they will find a job matched to their historical experience and compensation within six months. Re-hire confidence is highest among younger workers (18-34) as 43% say it is at least likely they will find a job within six months compared to 30% of workers 55 and over. In fact, 46% of workers 55 and over think it is unlikely they will find a new job at a commensurate level and more than one-fourth (29%) think getting re-hired within six months is very unlikely.

Concession Indicators -Taking on more projects and responsibility (70%) and working more hours (62%) remain the leading concessions employees are willing to accept to keep their job. However, in the past 3 months, more employees have warmed to salary cuts, unpaid leave, and lost vacation as options to keeping their pay check. Forty percent are now willing to take a pay cut compared to 30% last quarter and about one-third (34%) are willing to take unpaid leave, compared to the one in four (24%) in December 2008. However, nearly half (48%) say they will not take a pay cut to keep their job and 38% will not take a furlough or other unpaid leave. Pay cuts are most acceptable to those with college degrees or higher (51%) and those earning more than $75,000 (48%). Younger employees (18-34) are more inclined to forfeit vacation or paid time off (35%) than workers 55+ (24%).

“While confidence of employees is dragged down by the weakened economy, we still see a fair bit of optimism in job security and expectations for pay and company performance. Like consumer confidence, employee confidence tends to lag behind the economy and we expect to see more employees willing to make concessions if concerns grow and work confidence lowers in the quarters ahead,” said career expert Rusty Rueff.

“We’re also seeing a bit of Pavlov’s syndrome among those who work for companies that have had layoffs. Once you see broad layoff effects first hand, you’re more likely to fear they might still happen to you and your coworkers. This can lower confidence in other career areas like salary growth and company outlook. How employers navigate the layoff aftermath can have important implications for employee morale and confidence in the future,” continued Rueff.

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