Mar 9, 2021 - Economy

Survey: Short-term worker optimism belied by longer-term concerns

Illustration of a line of people walking along a bar chart with binary code

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new survey of American workers finds signs of hope for the immediate future, but longer-term worries about career advancement.

The big picture: With the pandemic loosening, hiring is expected to pick up dramatically, but the specter of automation and obstacles to reskilling dims the picture for the future.

By the numbers: In a new survey of over 5,000 American adults conducted by the University of Phoenix Career Institute that comes after a wretched year for employment, 78% of respondents say they feel hopeful about the future of their careers, and nearly 80% report they feel highly employable.

  • 7 in 10 say they feel prepared to search for a new job now if they needed or desired.

Yes, but: The survey also found that the economic trauma of COVID-19 has taken its toll on American workers.

  • One in three respondents said the pandemic had taken their career of course — considerably more than the number of Americans who lost their job over the past year.
  • The optimism survey respondents reported feeling now wanes over the longer-term, with one in five saying their job had become automated during the pandemic, and nearly half worrying that their job skills will eventually become outdated because of technology.

Of note: Nearly half of respondents are actively worried about losing their job because of the economy, with higher levels of concern among women, people of color and Generation Z.

What they're saying: "Americans come through in the survey as being really resilient and gritty, but we identify some of the help they'll need to remain that way," says John Woods, chief academic officer at the University of Phoenix.

  • "That could be help with networking, upskilling, or mental health support."

The bottom line: Automation isn't yet the full job destroyer that many Americans fear it will be, but workers will need reskilling help to be in a better position for the future.

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