All this year MediaNomics
has reported on how the TV networks have overhyped the economic
insecurity of American workers. A March study, for instance, showed
that there had been 19 stories in the first two months of the year
about layoffs, but only two about job growth. The June issue
reported on how the media were ignoring an Inc. magazine\Gallup poll
showing that most workers are quite secure and happy.
Finally, some reporters are
starting to question the layoff legend. "The fears," said Forest
Sawyer, in his introduction to a July 3 World News Tonight story,
"are not always supported by the facts."
Robert Krulwich, an
economics correspondent for ABC News, continued: "Because we read
every day about corporate layoffs and corporate downsizing and job
anxiety, most of us now believe the world has changed...[but] what
we all think is happening is not." According to Krulwich, "We
Americans stay at our jobs about as long as we did 20 years ago. If
you go back to 1973 to see how many folks had been at the same
company for 10 years or more, for the younger group it was 28.8
percent and for the older group it was 45.1 percent. Now let's go
forward to 1993, and look at this, the percentages are up, but very
slightly. No big change at all."
He quoted Henry Farber, an
economist at Princeton University: "And so what this is telling me
is that there is basically just about as much job stability now as
there was 20 years ago."
But then Krulwich tried to
explain why people seem to feel more insecure now than they did in
past decades. "Here's one possible explanation," Krulwich ventured.
"Yeah, lots of people left jobs in 1973; lots of people left jobs in
1993. The numbers look the same...[but] there is some evidence that
back in the 1970s more people happily quit their jobs for better
pay, whereas today more people get fired." According to Krulwich,
"Today people may stay at their jobs because they are afraid of
losing their health insurance or their benefits, so they are stuck.
Back then people maybe stayed on their jobs because they liked
This explanation conflicts,
however, with the Inc. poll, which showed that 70 percent think
management makes their workplaces great places to work, that 84
percent had opportunities to grow and learn at work, and that almost
70 percent thought they were paid fairly. This is not the picture of
an unhappy work force.
While his diagnosis of
worker attitudes may have been suspect, kudos to Krulwich for
reporting the facts about job tenure.