Is worker confidence on the rise?

Worker confidence increased a bit in the last quarter of 2017, according to a recent annual study by HRO Today magazine and Yoh Recruitment Process Outsourcing. The Worker Confidence Index (WCI) measures U.S. employment security from the perspective of the employees themselves, based on approximately 3,000 online interviews per quarter. 

By the WCI reckoning, worker confidence has now increased for the past two quarters, but overall is down 1.3 points since last year. The metric currently stands at 103.2 (baseline of 100), so employees are still feeling pretty good about their present situations, as might be hoped for during a time of low unemployment and strong economic performance.  

The WCI consists of four components:

  • possibility of involuntary job loss,
  • likelihood of promotion,
  • anticipation of a raise of at least 3 percent, and
  • trust in company leadership.

Trust in leadership was up by 2.8 points in Q4 over Q3, yet still down 3.7 points from Q4 of 2016. Confidence related to job security dropped 2.5 percent from the previous quarter, which may be a reflection of the fluctuating trust issue. 

The study notes that while concern over job loss is greater than it’s been on average over the past 14 quarters, it’s still low compared to historic norms. Stock market volatility so far in 2018 may be a factor in lowering worker confidence. Should the market smooth out, confidence would be expected to rise accordingly. 

The report provides a number of detailed findings, including comparisons with other indices, but here are a few items of interest to HR professionals: 

Men more concerned than women. Female concern about job loss increased only 0.5 percent over the course of the previous year, but male concern was 2.9 percent higher. 

Older workers, too. Workers aged 55 to 64 were twice as worried about losing their jobs as they were a year ago. Normally, high-income segments of the workforce are more optimistic about their prospects, so this could be seen as an early indicator of declining confidence in 2018. 

And $100,000K households. More than 11 percent of households making more than $100,000 felt more likely they’d lose their jobs in Q4 of 2017; almost double the rate of the previous quarter, and 1.5 times higher than Q4 of 2016. 

Inverse relationship between age and job security. Millennials (34 and under) are traditionally the group most concerned with losing their jobs, with anxiety decreasing as workers age. Yet in Q4 workers 65 and older showed one of the highest relative levels of concern since the study’s inception. 

And between age and trust. More than half of employees 44 or younger trust their company leadership. Percentages decline sharply after age 45.

Race. Whites were most confident in retaining their jobs; Hispanics least. Yet minorities were considerably more trusting of leadership, and much more optimistic about promotions and raises, than whites. 

The WCI has been a reliable indicator of consumer confidence, accurately predicting the direction of the next quarter’s end eight of the last nine times. The full report can be downloaded here.