Job Worries, Credit-Card Difficulties Still Affect NJ Consumers

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STATE—New Jerseyans continue to worry about their job security, according to the quarterly consumer survey by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Silberman College of Business.

More than a third (36%) of those employed say they are worried about losing their job in the next 12 months—a third of those, 12% overall, are “very worried.” On the other end of the scale, just 39% say they are “not at all worried” about losing their job, down five percentage points from the previous quarter.  Two-thirds (65%) report that they have either a relative or close friend who has been laid off, essentially unchanged from January (67%), and still elevated compared to 54% in January 2009 and 38% in January 2008.

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“People are aware that even if the economy as a whole has stabilized, their own employer is still under a lot of pressure,” said Sorin Tuluca, professor of finance at Fairleigh Dickinson’s Silberman College of Business and a specialist in financial crises. “A recovering economy does not mean each business or organization recovers equally.”

In fact, those who are employed are more likely than those who have not been working—whether retired, or not employed outside the home, or unemployed—to say they are better off financially than they were a year ago (27% compared to 12%) and are significantly less likely to say that they’re worse off (41% compared to 52%).

“Those who have kept their jobs feel lucky,” said Tuluca. “And as they reduce their spending out of caution, they feel more secure.”
Overall, one in five (21%) New Jerseyans report they are better off than a year ago, an increase of three percentage points over January 2010 and eight points over January 2009.

However, looking ahead, only 43% think that they will be better off next year, a decrease of five percentage points from January and the lowest number since October 2008 when the banking crisis was in full force.  Those who are employed are more optimistic than those who are retired or not employed. Those over 60 are the least optimistic, with just one-in-four (24%) saying they’ll be better off financially in a year.

“Consumers have understandably mixed feelings,” said Tuluca. “On the one hand, they know the country avoided a complete economic disaster, so they’re better off than they expected to be. On the other hand, there is little to indicate that the economy will mend quickly.”

About a third (31%) continue to say that making credit-card payments is somewhat or very difficult, unchanged over the past year, but up from early 2008 and previous years when the figure hovered around one in four.

“The silver lining might be that the consumer learns a lesson in this economic downturn,” said Tuluca.  “The lesson would be to save a little more and live less on credit,“ he said. “This would be good for the economy in the long run.”

The telephone survey of 608 randomly selected adults throughout New Jersey who participate in their household’s financial decisions was sponsored by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Silberman College of Business and conducted by FDU’s PublicMind from March 22, 2010, through March 28, 2010 and has a margin of error of +/-4 percentage points.


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