Americans increasingly feel they could find a new job if necessary, according to the results of the 2012 General Social Survey, a long-standing poll of public opinion. Fear of being laid off dropped last year from its 2010 peak to roughly its average for the 35 years the question has been asked.
The percentage of Americans who said it would be somewhat or very easy to find a job if they lost theirs rose to 54 percent last year from 46 percent in 2010. The 2010 figure was the lowest since 1983, when the United States was also emerging from a deep recession.
On average in the survey’s history, about 58 percent of respondents have said it would be very or somewhat easy to find a job.
As layoffs have declined, fewer Americans fear losing their job. Last year, 11 percent of adults thought it was somewhat or very likely that they’d lose theirs. That was down from a record-high 16 percent in 2010, and it matches the 11 percent average the survey has found since it began asking the question.
Americans might be feeling even more secure now than when the survey was taken last year. The number of layoffs fell in January to the lowest level in the 12 years the government has tracked the data. Fewer people are seeking unemployment benefits.
Employers have stepped up hiring, though the job gains slowed in March. Employers added nearly 2.2 million jobs in 2012, an average of about 180,000 a month. That’s enough to slowly lower the unemployment rate.
Even though the rate remains high at 7.6 percent, greater confidence among those who have a job could encourage more consumer spending and boost economic growth.
“If you’re not afraid of being laid off, you’re going to spend more of your money,” said Drew Matus, an economist at UBS.
The General Social Survey has been conducted roughly every two years since 1972. The survey is a project of the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago, with primary funding from the National Science Foundation.
From mid-March through September last year, 1,975 adults were asked about their financial situation and their feelings about the job market. The survey’s margin of error was 2.2 percentage points.
The survey found that confidence in the economy varied by education. Those with college degrees felt more job security than those with less education. Since the recession ended in June 2009, Americans with a college education have reported greater improvement in confidence than those with high school degrees or less.
Only 6 percent of college-educated Americans said in 2012 that it was somewhat or very likely that they’d lose their job, down from 10 percent in 2010.
Those with high school degrees were also more confident in 2012: Twelve percent feared losing their job, down from 19 percent two years earlier.
Americans with less than a high school degree reported little change: 26 percent felt it was somewhat or very likely they would be laid off in 2012, about on par with the 29 percent who felt so in 2010.
On whether it would be somewhat or very easy to find another job, 59 percent of those with college degrees said so, up from 52 percent in 2010. Among high school graduates, that figure rose to 53 percent last year from 43 percent in 2010.
Those without a high school degree still lack confidence: Only 40 percent said it would be somewhat or very easy to find new work, essentially unchanged from the 41 percent who said so in 2010.