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Press Release

Recession Survey: 41% of Workers Believe We're in Recession


Amid growing speculation about whether the US is in a recession, a new survey reveals 41 percent of workers believe we are.

The Conference Board survey also finds that businesses are already taking precautionary measures. Indeed, 36 percent of survey respondents say their company has already begun to restrict hiring to crucial roles, and 13 percent say layoffs have been conducted. Workers aren’t worried, however, with 80 percent feeling secure in their jobs. In fact, workers are more worried about a declining stock market than the possibility of losing their job.

“Amid historically low unemployment in the US, this recession will be significantly different from prior downturns,” said Rebecca Ray, PhD, Executive Vice President of Human Capital at The Conference Board. “Businesses should be mindful of the lessons learned from the COVID recession, when those that furloughed or laid off workers saw just how hard it can be to get that talent back. As we face another recession—which The Conference Board projects will begin later this year—leaders should explore alternatives to layoffs and furloughs, such as offering incentives for voluntary separation.”

The latest workforce survey from The Conference Board polled more than 1,000 individuals—predominantly professional/office workers—from July 29-August 4. Respondents weighed in on recession expectations and fears, as well as what measures their businesses have taken.

Key findings include:

41 percent of respondents think we are already in a recession.

Given the current economic climate, do you believe we will have an economic slowdown/recession in the US?

  • 41 percent of respondents think we are already in a recession.
  • 33 percent believe we will be in a recession within six months.
  • More white respondents say we are already in a recession than other races/ethnicities:

    • Black: 27 percent
    • Hispanic/Latino: 35 percent
    • White: 42 percent
  • More men say we are in a recession than women:
    • Men: 46 percent
    • Women: 35 percent

Businesses are already taking cost-cutting measures, including hiring restrictions and restructurings.

Which of the following organization cost reduction measures have you witnessed?

  • Restricting and freezing hiring are the top measures taken so far:
    • Restricted hiring to crucial roles: 36 percent
    • Froze all hiring: 22 percent
    • Implemented a major restructuring of the organization: 19 percent
    • Deferred pay increases or bonuses: 15 percent
    • Cut bonuses: 14 percent
    • Conducted layoffs: 13 percent
    • Implemented furloughs with benefits: 4 percent

Cost-cutting is not yet as severe as early COVID measures.

  • Freezing or restricting hiring were also the top measures taken at the start of COVID-19, but to a greater degree:
    • Restricted hiring to crucial roles during COVID: 66 percent
    • Froze all hiring: 32 percent
  • In response to COVID, however, businesses were less likely to restructure or conduct layoffs, but more likely to implement furloughs:
    • Implemented a major restructuring of the organization: 5 percent
    • Conducted layoffs: 8 percent
    • Implemented furloughs with benefits: 23 percent

Despite cost-cutting measures, most workers feel secure in their jobs.

 How secure do you feel about retaining your job?

  • 44 percent are secure, and 36 percent are very secure in their jobs.
  • The higher the seniority level, the more secure respondents are in their jobs:
    • Individual contributors: 72 percent are secure
    • CEOs: 94 percent

For workers, a declining stock market trumps worries of losing their job.

In the event of a significant economic slowdown/recession, what are your greatest fears?

  • 60 percent of respondents say a decline in the stock market is among their greatest fears in the event of a recession, the top response.
    • Decline in stock market: 60 percent
    • Job loss: 42 percent
    • Delayed retirement plans: 31 percent
    • Falling home value: 27 percent
    • Loss of health benefits: 14 percent
  • Black respondents fear job loss less than other races/ethnicities, but fear delayed home purchase at around two times the rate:
    • Job loss:
      • Asian American/Pacific Islander: 58 percent
      • Black: 26 percent
      • Hispanic/Latino: 56 percent
      • White: 42 percent
    • Delayed home purchase:
      • Asian American/Pacific Islander: 11 percent
      • Black: 21 percent
      • Hispanic/Latino: 9 percent
      • White: 8 percent

Recession worries vary by generation.

In the event of a significant economic slowdown/recession, what are your greatest fears?

  • Millennials fear job loss at a much higher rate than their generational counterparts:
    • Baby Boomers: 26 percent
    • Gen X: 46 percent
    • Millennials: 64 percent
  • Baby Boomers fear a decline in the stock market at a much higher rate than their generational counterparts:
    • Baby Boomers: 71 percent
    • Gen X: 59 percent
    • Millennials: 43 percent

“Different generations have different priorities,” said Robin Erickson, PhD, Vice President of Human Capital at The Conference Board. “As Baby Boomers near retirement, they are keeping a close eye on the stock market and their 401ks. Millennials, on the other hand, are earlier in career and thus less established, and understandably fear job loss more.”

Most workers believe they can weather an economic storm.

Do you have financial resources to weather an economic slowdown of six months or less? Of more than six months?

  • 91 percent say they have the financial resources to withstand a slowdown of 6 months or less.
  • 75 percent could endure a recession of more than 6 months.
  • White respondents, men, and Baby Boomers report they are able to withstand a longer-term slowdown at a higher rate than their counterparts:
    • Race/ethnicity:
      • Asian American/Pacific Islander: 70 percent
      • Black: 61 percent
      • Hispanic/Latino: 62 percent
      • White: 79 percent
    • Gender:
      • Men: 81 percent
      • Women: 71 percent
    • Generation:
      • Baby Boomers: 84 percent
      • Gen X: 75 percent
      • Millennials: 60 percent

The top response to a recession? Spend less.

If we have an economic slowdown, how would you respond to it?

  • 66 percent of respondents say they will curtail spending if there is an economic slowdown, the top response:
    • Curtail spending (e.g., entertainment/leisure activities, non-essentials): 66 percent
    • Delay big/luxury purchases (e.g., housing, vacation, car): 54 percent
    • Increase savings: 32 percent
    • Change investment portfolio to be less risky: 19 percent
    • Delay retirement: 17 percent
  • 40 percent of Baby Boomers say they would delay retirement if there was a recession.
  • Black respondents say they would look for a part-time job or side hustle at around two times or more than the rate of other races/ethnicities:
    • Asian American/Pacific Islander: 4 percent
    • Black: 13 percent
    • Hispanic/Latino: 5 percent
    • White: 7 percent

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Joseph DiBlasi