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What The Media Tell Americans About Free Enterprise

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July 1996


Kudos: Krulwich and Corporate Layoff Fears

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 them."

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.


Rich Noyes


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