Americans Live in Terror of Losing Their Jobs

Over 60 percent of workers polled by the Washington Post say they are scared they will lose their job.

Unemployment Ahead - Caution Sign Isolated On White.
Photo Credit: Jim Vallee/

Americans are scared of losing their jobs, and the worry is particularly pronounced among lower-income workers.  

A Washington Post poll highlighted in an article shows that over 60 percent of workers polled are scared they will lose their job, a number that has increased since the 1970s.  

Another record high is that 1 in 3 workers worry “a lot” about being fired or laid off. While low-income workers have always been scared of job insecurity, the worry is even more intense today. The poll found that 54 percent of workers making less than $35,000 worry a lot about losing their jobs. 85 percent of low-wage workers are fearful that their income cannot meet basic expenses. And the poll found that this worry transcends partisan lines, with workers in support of the president still reporting anxiety and worry.

The Washington Post profiled John Stewart as a case in point.  He earns $5.25 an hour (plus tips) by working at the Philadelphia airport, wheeling elderly people from ticket counters through security to their gates.  Stewart told the Post he “can’t save money to buy the things I need to live as a human being”--including treatment for psoriasis, which causes his skin to flake.

It wasn’t always this way for Stewart.  While his previous jobs were certainly low-paying, he said he never worried about not finding another.  But in today’s economy he is.  It took him five months to find his most recent job.

“It’s no surprise that security concerns are off the map now [among those workers] because the labor market is so bad,” Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the liberal Economic Policy Institute, told the Post.  “High unemployment hurts workers across the board, but it hurts workers with low and moderate incomes more.”


Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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