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I want my benefits

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In case you haven’t heard, the economy isn’t doing too hot. (Shocking, I know).

New job numbers out late last week showed that U.S. employers added the fewest jobs in nine months, possibly signaling the economy is heading into a weak spring. The country’s unemployment rate has been dipping slightly, but that’s just because more people have stopped looking for work.

The percentage of Americans working or looking for jobs fell to 63.3 percent in March, the lowest such figure in nearly 34 years.

On a related note, a new Harris poll out found that American workers (gasp!) don’t have a sense of security about their employment status. Fourteen percent of employees worry they will lose their job in the next three months, and one in five say it’s likely they will have their salary or hours reduced.

Nothing about this signals happy news about our economic state. However, none of this is surprising.

We all know people who have been laid off or are struggling to find a new job (for many of us, that person is us). But the one thing I’d like to point out about the Harris poll findings is this: The struggling economy isn’t just making Americans worry about their job security, it’s making them worry about their benefits security.

The majority of employees (56 percent) say they are worried about job and benefits security as they watch the inner working of their employers’ daily decisions about these critical issues.

More than 75 percent of workers believe their benefits will be reduced, especially health benefits. That’s significantly more than the 64 percent who believe their salaries won’t increase, and a lot more than the half who believe they will be asked to do more work for the same pay.

It’s a simple finding in a simple poll, but it’s important. Benefits matter — perhaps more than ever. When benefits security is more front-of-mind than job security, it says a lot.

A friend and I were talking about our jobs recently. She said she’s not happy with her job, but the benefits are the best she’s had. Unless they changed, she told me she didn’t plan to leave. Her employer dropping them is actually her biggest fear about her job.

With ever-rising medical costs and health reform threatening to erode employer-sponsored coverage, it’s a warranted fear.

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