In a CBS News/New York Times Poll conducted in February, more than half of Americans said they were concerned that someone in their household might lose a job in the next year, including 31 percent who were "very" concerned about this prospect.
The impact of the current economic problems is reflected in the polling data. Since the fall of 2008, the percentage that has been very concerned about a job loss in their household has hovered between about three and four in 10 Americans. Prior to that, it was closer to two in ten. The CBS News Poll has been asking this question since 1996; the highest measure of concern occurred in February and April of 2009, when 44 percent said they were very concerned.
Even when official unemployment figures are comparatively low, as in 2005 and 2006, some Americans remain concerned about a job loss. But in those years the percentage that was "not worried at all" about unemployment was much higher - more than half were not concerned. Now, just four in 10 aren't concerned - and a few months ago that figure was as low as a third.
While anxiety about a job loss affects Americans of all ages, incomes and education levels, some groups have been hit especially hard. Those with lower incomes are most likely to be worried - 43 percent of them are very concerned someone in their household will lose a job.
Younger people - 40 percent of those under age 30 -- have also been more widely affected by job insecurity. Those with less education and residents of the Northeast and the West express relatively higher levels of concern as well.
|Less than college grad||33%|
|College grad or higher||24% |
|Under $50k income||43%|
|$50k or more||21% |
Jobs and the economy have been cited as the top problem - by a large margin -- facing the country since January 2008, when it surpassed the war in Iraq. In the most recent CBS News/New York Times Poll, 52 percent of Americans named it as the most important problem. The next highest was health care at only 13 percent.
And only 17 percent of Americans think the country's economy is in good shape now, while 83 percent think it's bad.
Sarah Dutton is the CBS News director of surveys. Poll Positions is weekly Hotsheet feature on polling trends from the CBS News Survey and Polling Unit. Click here for more posts from the series.