September 24, 2010

One Recession, Two Americas

IV. The Two Americas at Work

As highlighted in the previous section, older adults have weathered the recession significantly better than other age groups. So it is not surprising that in terms of employment status, retired adults as a group are significantly more likely than working Americans to fall into the group that Held their Own during the recession.

More than six-in-ten retirees (64%) have faced relatively few economic hardships during the recession and fall into the group that Held their Own while 36% Lost Ground. At the opposite extreme, virtually everyone who is currently unemployed or was jobless at some point during the recession is a member of the group that Lost Ground (94%).

Yet a job was no guarantee that an individual would suffer few setbacks during the recession. A modest majority (56%) of all workers who did not face a spell of unemployment during the recession fell into the group that Held their Own while 44% Lost Ground.

Workplace Experiences

A spell of unemployment is clearly related to whether an individual Lost Ground or Held their Own during the recession.

Not surprisingly, a similar pattern emerges when the focus changes to other kinds of employment problems.

The survey found those who faced work-related hardships such as a pay cut, furloughs or a forced switch from full- to part-time work are disproportionately represented among the ranks of Americans who Lost Ground.

Among the currently employed, those who Lost Ground during the recession are far more likely to say their pay was cut (31% vs. 10%), they were forced to take unpaid time off (16% vs. 6%), their work hours were reduced (37% vs. 15%) or they had to switch from full-time to part-time work (17% vs. 2%).

Those currently employed who Lost Ground also were more likely to face at least two of the job hardships tested than those lightly affected by the recession (30% vs. 7%).

Conversely, a majority of those who Held their Own (54%) experienced none of the four job-related hardships, compared with 30% of their less fortunate colleagues. Among those who did not face any of the problems tested in the survey, fewer than half (46%) Lost Ground during the recession. That proportion increases to 66% among those who had one problem at work and 82% for those who experienced two of the four hardships on the job. For  those who faced at least three of the hardships, the proportion soars to 90%.