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Labour market trends

This survey of more than 2000 people* looked at confidence in the labour market, recession-proofing skills and communications about job losses. The results provide a valuable snapshot of workers’ attitudes, as summarised by Keith Sammons MD of Matchtec.

With unemployment at recent highs and signs that we may be over the worst of this recession, and debate that there may be another one to come – human capital management, resourcing and labour force planning are all at the sharp end, both in feeling the impact of a recession as well as being influential in how we recover from it.

With news that the recession is easing, people are showing signs of feeling more secure, but it’s still just a significant minority, confidence is not fully restored and still fragile at this stage. One in three (32 percent) working adults feel more secure in their jobs now that there are reports that the recession is easing, men (35 percent) more than women (30 percent) say so. News of things easing up have reassured the youngest workers, aged 18-24, most (46 percent), followed by 25-34 year olds at 37 percent.

Given the usual assumption that work is easier to find further south, it seems that the pattern of confidence is less predictable nationally. Workers in the South East (28 percent) are least reassured about their job security despite reports that the recession is easing (Midlands 35 percent, North, South West, Wales at 34 percent and Scotland 31 percent).

Mobility in the labour force is another key indicator and not even a recession has stopped many people seeking pastures new if they are unhappy where they are. A significant number of people though have stayed put to weather the storm it seems. While three in ten (30 percent) say that they have avoided changing jobs in the past year or so, despite being unhappy with their current one, nearly one in two (46 percent) hadn’t been put off changing jobs because of the recession. Men (33 percent) more than women (27 percent) have avoided changing jobs for a happier work life because of the recession. People in the Midlands (34 percent) have been most keen to stay put work wise during the downturn.

Anyone who has ever had to announce job losses knows that bad news is never easy to share and HR professionals and bosses sometimes have a thankless task in managing communications during difficult times. It seems that significant numbers are reassured by well managed processes during the recession. More than a third of workers whose companies have experienced job losses (35 percent) say that bosses have done a good job in communicating them and their impact on employees. Just over one in four employees (27 percent) wouldn’t agree that their bosses have the internal comms right in this area. The 25-34 year old group of workers were most likely to feel well communicated with about job losses and their impact (45 percent) 

Investing in future job prospects and keeping ahead in a current role is something many people are now willing to do to secure their employment. Three in ten people (30 percent) who are working or looking for work have dipped in to their own pockets or used their own time during the recession to gain new skills to help them get new jobs or keep their current one. The 35-44 age range (38 percent) and 18-24 year olds (34 percent) were most likely to self fund skills development or put their own time into it to make their job or prospects more secure. Scots (36 percent) were most likely to pay to gain new recession-busting skills, followed by the Midlands at 33 percent, the North, South West and Wales at 30 percent and the South East least at 26 percent. Future surveys in the series will include a variety of issues affecting the workplace including; wellbeing, stability, management and recruitment.

*Populus interviewed 2,007 adults aged 18+ online between 11th and 13th September 2009. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to be representative of all adults. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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