WORK WORRIES

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It's the economy, stupid — at least that's where employers are placing the blame in their attempt to explain workplace malaise since Sept. 11. While many businesses have suffered financially since last fall, most ascribe their problems to the recession rather than to the terrorists attacks. In fact, a solid majority of employers (63 percent) expect the events of Sept. 11 to have little effect on their businesses, according to a report released in February.

“Standing on Shaky Ground: Employers Sharply Concerned in Aftermath of Recession and Terror� is a survey that was conducted Dec. 3-7, 2001, by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, in partnership with the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut. The survey is the first in a new Work Trends series about employers' policies and practices, and was based on interviews with employers from 501 companies randomly selected from a national database of American businesses. Eligible respondents included personnel directors, human resources directors or anyone in charge of hiring for their company.

According to the study, 84 percent of employers are very or somewhat concerned about the state of the economy, and 60 percent anticipate the slowing economy to cause problems for their business. Nearly 79 percent say they are more concerned with these economic issues than they were same time last year. By contrast, only 27 percent say the terrorist attacks resulted in less work for their business.

In particular, these personnel professionals say that high unemployment combined with a poorly trained work force are hindering their companies. More than 7 in 10 (72 percent) say they are concerned with rising unemployment, while at the same time, 46 percent say it has been difficult to find qualified workers this past year. Despite the heightened joblessness, 29 percent believe they'll still have trouble finding suitable employees.

Yet when it comes to training workers, employers take a “not my job� approach: Not only do a mere 14 percent believe it's primarily their responsibility to educate or train workers, 22 percent say they plan to cut back or eliminate such programs, given the current economic slump.

Many employers see the most likely solution to corporate financial troubles as — surprise — more layoffs. Sixty-seven percent state they are concerned about employees' job security. And with good reason: 38 percent of the employers who say the economy will hurt their businesses anticipate layoffs. Of the companies who say they have lost business since Sept. 11, 37 percent have already laid off workers, 35 percent have reduced overtime, 20 percent have reduced hours and 8 percent have instituted a hiring freeze.


For more information, log on to www.heldrich.rutgers.edu .

HELP WANTED

Surprisingly, both employers and employees feel it's a good time to be job-hunting.

Employer Attitudes

HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED DIFFICULTY IN FINDING QUALIFIED WORKERS THIS PAST YEAR?

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES
TOTAL 5-24 25-99 100+
Yes 46% 42% 47% 57%

DO YOU THINK FINDING QUALIFIED WORKERS IF THE CURRENT ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN CONTINUES WILL BE MORE DIFFICULT, LESS DIFFICULT, OR WILL STAY THE SAME?

More difficult 8%
Less difficult 38%
Stay the same 54%

Employer vs. Employees

DO YOU THINK NOW IS A GOOD TIME TO FIND A JOB?

YES NO
Employers 62% 28%
Employees 64% 23%
Source: Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Rutgers University
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