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Employee Confidence Slides -- Surveys

Wed Mar 2, 2005 06:01 AM ET

By Emily Chasan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. employee confidence fell sharply in February, as workers grew more worried about personal finances, layoffs and job security, according to surveys released on Wednesday.

The employee confidence index in Hudson Highland Group's latest survey of 9,000 workers fell to 102.0, its lowest level in 12 months and down sharply from 106.2 in January.

Job loss fears were at their highest in more than a year, as one of five employees surveyed feared the loss of his or her job. The number of workers expecting their companies to lay off employees rose to 18 percent in February from 16 percent in January, Hudson said.

The decline in confidence may be due to slow employment growth, as workers have been pessimistic about the job market since 2000, staffing executives said.

A separate survey by staffing firm Spherion Corp. (SFN.N) showed overall employee confidence held steady with January, but employees showed slight decreases in personal confidence, confidence about the future of their companies, and confidence in their ability to find a job.

Furthermore, the Spherion survey of more than 3,000 workers, showed that 43 percent of employees still believe fewer jobs are available, compared to 24 percent who believe more jobs are available.

"We are still measuring the number of jobs available by the norm of job growth in the late 1990s. Since then, its been a steady month-over-month increase but we haven't seen a real spike." Spherion's president of employment solutions, Robert Morgan said.

But overall employee confidence levels have remained relatively steady over the past few years, "Even with the downturn in the job market, employees have remained relatively confident in their own abilities. We haven't seen a dive in their overall confidence levels," Morgan said.

The Hudson survey also revealed growing optimism at large companies and among professionals, as employees in organizations with 250 to 500 employees or with annual salaries between $60,000 and $75,000, were more confident about personal finances and expected fewer layoffs. Employees at the smallest companies were most concerned about losing their jobs, Hudson said.

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