Workforce Confidence Index Poll Reflects Both Optimism and Worry

According to a recent Workforce Confidence Index poll conducted by LinkedIn, most people have an optimistic view about their ability to effectively work remotely, while a slightly smaller portion thinks their entire industry can. This is good news considering remote work is expected to stay, even as states slowly roll back economic restrictions due to COVID-19. The highest rates of optimism are found, unsurprisingly, in the software and IT sectors, followed closely by finance, media and communications. Public administration employees rank somewhere in the middle while tourism and retail bring up the rear. The results also show skepticism in other industries with an emphasis on in-person interaction, such as healthcare and manufacturing.

The Workforce Confidence Index also measures how employees feel about the future when it comes to their jobs, finances, and overall career prospects. The results of which vary across the country by region, with the Southeast ranking highest in confidence and the Rocky Mountains ranking lowest. The respective increases and decreases expressed both seem to correspond to state economies re-opening. In his overview, George Anders states that “28% of Rocky Mountain workers think their income will fall over the next six months, and another 47% believe the number of job openings will decrease in the next two weeks.”

Where is this anxiety coming from?

Falling Income

Well, if Montana is any indication, many of the top industries in some of these states require in-person interaction and can’t really be done from home. For example, Montana Department of Labor & Industry statistics show that last year, 5 out of the top 6 industries in the state fit that description:

Granted, some of these industries were declared essential by the state, yet some of the heavy hitters (retail, food services, and construction in particular) rely on people paying them for their services, which becomes increasingly difficult as unemployment in the US reaches Depression-era levels. Moreover, it seems conceivable that if there is a second, more aggressive outbreak of COVID-19 later this year as many predict, businesses that are currently re-opening but operating at a loss could face serious financial consequences after another round of social distancing requirements.

Fewer Job Openings

For many Rocky Mountain states, tourism is a major source of income, especially as summer starts to peep through springtime gloom. For example, the Bureau of Business and Economic Research reported that visiting non-residents spent $3.36 billion in Montana, accounting for 54% of total travel-based spending that year ($6.23 billion). But again, with so many people out of work or in financial dire straits, it’s possible that less people will have the means to travel, which could lead to less opportunities for seasonal employees.

All in all, considering the current state of affairs, the worry expressed by the Rocky Mountain states in LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index poll is completely justified. There are a lot of lingering economic worries that still have yet to shake themselves out. However, as George Anders quoted Mondelez chief executive, Dirk Van de Put, out of the Wall Street Journal, “this crisis has showed that we can work in different ways.” The fact that so many industries switched to remote work without missing a beat is a great indicator of just how flexible and resilient the American workforce is. While some jobs simply cannot be done from home, that doesn’t mean they can’t be optimized to effectively weather the pandemic or revolutionize an industry. And given the level of grit and resolve of the people in these industries, there is no reason to think failure is inevitable.

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