What Do High Levels of Job Anxiety Signify?


A recent Gallup poll found 31% of US workers are “worried they could soon be laid off.” That number is “similar to the 31% seen in August 2009 but double the level recorded in August 2008 and for several years prior.”

This could have several interpretive meanings for the markets and economy:

Negative for Economy: The working public sees company activity and sales first hand, and can sense when their employer is in trouble.
Negative for Politicians: The 2007-09 Recession was already in full swing while Politicians were denying (See Mental Recession). The public was much more astute and insightful than much of DC
Positive for Economy: Due to the Recency effect, people’s outlooks are backwards looking, greatly impacted by their most recent experiences. In the present case, the fear is of another credit crisis like event.
Positive for Markets: As a contrary indicator, the public’s fears can work well as an entry signal for trades. The last time job insecurity peaked was mid-2009, not a bad entry for equities.

I have no particular insight which of these are correct — I wanted to lay them out for discussion purposes.


In U.S., Worries About Job Cutbacks Return to Record Highs
Three in 10 workers worry they could lose their job, double the level seen in 2008
Lydia Saad
Gallup, August 31, 2011

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