Workers Less Confident than CEOs

There's a disconnect between the outlook of U.S. chief executives and the perceptions of the rank and file.

Earlier this week, the Business Roundtable’s monthly CEO Economic Outlook Index reached a record high, based on strong projections by the 118 respondents for capital spending, sales, and employment.

“America’s CEOs are confident that the U.S. economy is robust and competitive,” said Hank McKinnell, chairman of the Business Roundtable as well as chairman and CEO of Pfizer Inc., in a statement. “Capital spending plans have risen sharply since the last survey, with 60 percent expecting to increase spending in the next six months. In addition, the vast majority of CEOs expect sales to continue to increase, and more than 80 percent of companies expect to add jobs or maintain current levels of employment in the months ahead.”

“Overall,” added McKinnell, “CEOs believe the economy is fundamentally strong and is poised for further growth.”

This is far from the way their employees perceive the current economic environment.

Hudson Highland Group found that the confidence of 9,000 U.S. workers surveyed in February fell to its lowest level in 12 months. The downward move reflected heightened concerns about layoffs, job security, and personal finances, explained the consultancy.

Fears of job loss rose to the highest level in more than a year: 21 percent of respondents were concerned about losing their own job, compared with 19 percent in January. Further, the number of workers who said they expected their companies to lay off staff in the coming months rose to 18 percent in February from 16 percent a month earlier.

“Employment growth has been slower than expected and has been restricted to certain sectors such as services, making U.S. workers cautious and even pessimistic about the overall job market,” said Jeff Anderson, a Hudson senior vice president, in a statement. Even so, Anderson asserted, “Our experience shows that the market has been experiencing steady, stable growth, indicating that companies will continue to hire.”

Meanwhile, a survey by staffing company Spherion Corp. found that overall employee confidence held steady with January’s figures, according to Reuters. The wire service added, however, that employees were slight less confident personally, about the future of their companies, and about their ability to find a job.

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

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