Here’s How Worried Americans Are About Potential Layoffs

It’s happening again this month: Another round of headlines about layoffs, particularly in the tech industry.

Announcements from recent weeks include Accenture (19,000 jobs), Meta (10,000 plus the closing of 5,000 open roles), Amazon (9,000), Disney (7,000), Indeed (2,200) and Bed Bath & Beyond (1,300). Numerous other companies have announced smaller overall numbers but higher percentages of their total workforces.

Results from a recent GOBankingRates survey weren’t exactly cheery, either. Asked whether they had been laid off from their jobs in the last 12 months, more than 20% of 1,002 respondents said they had. Workers in the 25-34 age range reported the highest numbers: 26%.

In the same survey, more than 30% said they were either “somewhat worried” or “very worried” about being laid off from their current positions. Workers in the 35-44 age range had the highest “very worried” totals at nearly 17%.

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Americans Are Not Prepared

Those blaring headlines aren’t the only reason Americans are worried about layoffs. Many of us aren’t financially prepared to comfortably navigate our time in between jobs, so the stakes are high.

Financial planners generally advise having 3-6 months’ worth of expenses stashed in case of a layoff or other emergency. But in the GOBankingRates survey, a whopping 29% of respondents said they had less than $500 in savings. Just over 17.5% reported that they had no savings at all.

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When asked what their biggest concern would be if they lost their jobs, 37% said it would be paying their bills. Covering housing costs was the top concern for 32.5%, and 16% said it was being able to buy groceries.

Sharp increases in monthly bills have added to bank account drain. Of those surveyed, 41% reported that their energy/utilities bills had increased 25% over the past year. An increase of 50% was reported by 22%, and nearly 10% said their bills had doubled.

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Andrew McCaskill, a career expert with LinkedIn and the founder of the “Black Guy in Marketing” newsletter, ties numbers like these to a rise in the phenomenon known as the “Sunday Scaries” — a feeling of dread associated around work, particularly on the eve of a new work week.

“There’s been a ton of change over the last few years with the pandemic, figuring out remote and hybrid work, employees feeling more burned out and, more recently, concern over economic uncertainty,” McCaskill said. “So it’s not a surprise that we’re seeing an increase in this type of stress.”

Unemployment Numbers Vary by Industry

Amid all of this anxiety, there are signs that fears of layoffs may not reflect the actual situation — at least for many.

For the week ending March 11, initial claims for state unemployment benefits — a key indicator — saw their biggest week-over-week decrease since last summer. Those numbers showed a slight decrease the following week.

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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has been tracking layoff and discharge rates since the turn of the century, and the latest monthly numbers are actually quite low, historically. In January, the last month the BLS has numbers for, the rate was 1.1% — just a couple of points off the lowest numbers ever recorded in the survey.

All that said, the tech industry saw a significant month-over-month increase in January, from 1.5% to 2.3%.

So a lot of it comes down to which industry you’re in. McCaskill notes that job openings in education are topping pre-pandemic levels and that prospects are also brighter in areas such as hospitals/healthcare, and the oil and gas industry.

“While there may be a significant amount of headlines around layoffs, you need to try to understand what these headlines mean for you and your industry,” McCaskill said. “You have to take into consideration that your role, your industry and your company might be doing OK. Knowledge is power.”

What To Do If You Are Laid Off

For those who have been laid off, McCaskill offers the following advice: “First, enter your search confidently. While a layoff offer might feel personal, it’s not. It’s just a reflection that the company’s business outlook has changed.

“Keep this in mind as you embark on the next phase of your job search, and take any time you need to process what has happened and feel the necessary emotions before entering your search. That way you can let the confidence and skills that helped you land that job power your next steps.

“Remember that while this job might be over, your career is here to stay,” McCaskill continued. “According to (LinkedIn’s) December 2022 consumer survey, more than one-quarter of those surveyed say they feel a layoff was actually the best thing that ever happened to them. Layoffs can be an opportunity to revisit your goals, consider new paths and explore different challenges.”

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