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Employees Mixed On Expectations For 2011 Raises; Reported Layoffs Fall Yet Cuts To Health And Dental Benefits Rise

It’s no wonder employees and job seekers are having a hard time getting a handle on the state of the job market and whether our economy is showing any improvements. In November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the unemployment rate creeped up from 9.6% to 9.8% only drop down to 9.4% in December. In parallel, the Conference Board reported that consumer confidence which had improved in November, decreased slightly in December.

To shed more light on what is influencing and impacting today’s workforce, Glassdoor has just released the results of its latest Employment Confidence Survey that reveals what those on the front lines, the employees and job seekers, are really seeing and feeling. Below are highlights showing where they are feeling optimistic, unsure and where they’re seeing changes at their company or in their job search.

Starting on a high note…

Employees More Confident in Job Security: After edging up in the third quarter, employee concerns about layoffs dropped in the fourth quarter. Employees concerned that they could be laid off in the next six months decreased to 17 percent, down three points from the third quarter and the year-ago quarter (20 percent). Employee concern for coworker layoffs also dipped slightly in the fourth quarter, with 31 percent reporting concerns their coworkers could be laid off in the next six months.  This comes as December layoff reports reported by Challenger, Grey and Christmas fell to the lowest levels since 2002.

Company Outlook Improves: This past quarter, 42 percent of employees (including those self-employed) reported they expect their company outlook to get better in the next six months, up from 38 percent in the third quarter. Only nine percent expect their company’s outlook to get worse in the next six months, down from 13 percent in the third quarter, and 10 percent in the year-ago quarter. (Interestingly, those in the West are more pessimistic in this area: Twice as many employees in the West (15%) expect their company’s outlook to get worse in the next six months than those in the Northeast (7%) and South (7%).

But as career expert Rusty Rueff notes, “While there are some positive indicators in the labor market, employees are getting mixed signals from their employers and the market.” As a case in point, they survey also found:

Compensation Cuts Continue; Raise Outlook Pessimistic: While employees may feel more confident in keeping their jobs some may be paying the price to do so. One in four (27 percent) of those who reported a change at their company in the second half of 2010 said their own compensation (pay, bonus, etc.) was reduced during the same period. While just one-third (36 percent) expect a raise in the next 12 months. But as a silver lining, those who are bonus eligible, the majority (58 percent) expect a bonus – up one percentage point from the fourth quarter of 2008. We also found some variance between the sexes when it comes to bonuses. Of those bonus eligible, 62 percent of men expect a bonus compared to 53 percent of women.

Health and Dental Benefits Cutbacks Rising: While reports of layoffs and other actions declined or held steady in the fourth quarter, cuts in health and dental benefits are on the rise. This quarter, 28 percent of employees who cited at least some changes reported cuts to their health and dental benefit in the past six months, compared to 22 percent in the third quarter. It is worth noting however that employees did report fewer hiring freezes (24%), bonus cuts (10%) and cuts in perks and subsidies (12%) than in recent quarters.

Interested to read more from the Glassdoor Employment Confidence Report? You can find out more like how confident employees and unemployed are that they could find a job matched to their experience or compensation levels, and how the current state of employment is affecting people of varying ages, geographic locations, click here to read the full report.

What’s going on at your company? Did you get a bonus? Expect a raise? Are you feeling more optimistic, about the same or more pessimistic about the state of the job market?